Any show promoted as this one has been, with that title and a picture of a kilted, conflicted looking man on the promotional posters, is bound to inspire a heated response in Edinburgh. Yet the subject of podcaster and performer Seamas Carey’s one-man Help! I Think I’m a Nationalist isn’t the only area where he confounds expectations; it’s about Cornish independence, which those outside the south-west of England might not think greatly about, but a live subject to many in the area.
Carey’s piece is part theatrical presentation, part series of lightly interactive elements designed to spur thoughts of nationalism and national identity. At one point all are asked to stand, then to sit down if they don’t fit the local criteria he calls out. These include Scottish birth, parentage, descent… and finally, willingness to shed blood and die for Scotland. A handful of people remain standing.
Little portions of Cornish cream tea are served, and the never-ending Cornwall/Devon stand-off as to whether jam or clotted cream goes on first is used to demonstrate the ways in which local difference can be reduced down to trivialities. Always engaging, always in motion, Carey isn’t blind to historical and current issues imposed on Cornwall from outside, from the systematic destruction of the Cornish language by English influence, to the effect on communities of second home owners in the present. Yet he resists words like ‘swarm’ in describing the latter, because the connotation is ugly. It’s hard to disagree with the conclusion he appears to be drawing throughout – that a sense of patriotism and local pride is good, but not when it’s expressed as hatred for the outsider.