In the Scottish Gaelic world the question, “a bheil gàidhlig agad?” rings out to find out if people “have the Gaelic with them” or “do you have Gaelic?” and in this solo show by Gaelic learner, Martin O’Connor, he explores just that. Is it in him? Does it stay in you? Do you lose a part of who you are when you move away from your mother tongue or as your accent changes because of geographical movement or education?
In Building a Nation, O’Connor explores two worlds in juxtaposition – the world of the Highlands and Islands, and in particular the Gaelic spoken there, and the industrial world of the Glasgow shipbuilders.
In our youth, voices, accents and dialects shape who we are and our identity, but as we grow older and move into formal education, onto career ladders and onto different places our voices become different, shaped by those we meet, by the places we go and by what we want to achieve. O’Connor argues, through a potent mix of spoken word, poetry, sound and song, that there is a sadness to this loss or reshaping and that it shouldn’t have to be like this.
It is well known on the west coast and amongst the island communities that there are nuances in the Gàidhlig spoken there, and the audience hear different regional accents from around Scotland throughout the performance showing the real colour and diversity these multifarious voices give to a country. The same is true of the various Scots dialects heard when exploring the deindustrialisation of Glasgow and it combines to make for an interesting evening, if a little disjointed and repetitive as O’Connor jumps rapidly from one section to the next leaving the audience racing to work out where he is now.
Ideas of class, heritage and perception are all touched on in what is a thought-provoking performance leaving the audience questioning how and why their own voices might have changed over the years, whether the Gàidhlig is in them (tha gàidhlig agam) or not.