SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS DIMENSIONS Brian is out of work and Alex is in a dead end job because of poverty in Motherwell; ‘Look at this place. Nothing but shoe shops and burger bars…IT DOES MY HEAD IN!’ Only the criminals, like Binks, make a living; Alex thinks education is a waste of time; The Kid represents a culture of materialism; The Youths represent a culture of casual violence, needlessly violent in their attack on the shop; Brian has no family to depend on – a brother in the army, an alcoholic father and a dead mother. Is this a typical home environment for Scots? The effects of this are demonstrated when he reminisces about his early years, and it seems these memories incite him to kill himself; Apart from Binks, Alex and Brian meet noone who has wealth;‘ Nobody round here worth mugging’ The car represents the downside of material possessions – unreliable, decaying and likely to cost; Although Alex works, he is paid a pittance, encouraged to continue mainly by fear of Binks; Tourism thrives on a distortion of the real Scotland. The reality, which tourists don’t see, is decaying town centres, poverty and the worst health record in the civilised world. Brian and Alex have an ambivalent attitude to their native land – defensive of it; but ashamed; They mock the ‘shortbread tin’ image; They are ignorant of their history – Iona sings in perfect Gaelic, and yet Alex understands none of it; They are surprised by the diversity of culture within Scotland; The only employee in the play is Alex, and that was only for 5 scenes. His relationship with his boss was based on terror; Tom works for a company in America, from the comfort of his home in Tongue. This demonstrates Scotland’s technological advancement, contrasting with the ‘heather and bagpipes’ image, but also with the vast poverty in the country. Brian’s lectures on tourist information remind the audience about the permanent background of our country that is paralleled with the changing Scots society. Alex’s problem with beauty is not untypical of Scottish men. It isn’t a subject for ‘real men’. The evils of society are represented by violence – Alex’s mugging, Binks’ ferocity, destruction of the car. Even Alex contributes – smashing the window and stealing the surfboard. Identify and select appropriate quotes to back these statements up. Use both to formulate a fully justified statement in relation to the example question; “Scottish plays focus on a negative image of Scots and/or Scotland.” Do you agree with this view? (2009) The MEG formula should be applied… M – Make a point E – Exemplify your point G – Give a quote. MAKE A POINT: A negative image of Scotland is portrayed through the setting of Passing Places. It is set in Motherwell where poverty is high. EXEMPLIFY THE POINT: We see this through the character of Kid, who is more than aware of the lack of wealth in the area; GIVE A QUOTE: KID: ‘Nobody round here worth mugging’ NOW CONCLUDE by referring back to the question This demonstrates the poverty in the area, suggesting that employment is difficult, thus portraying Scotland negatively. USE OF HISTORY, NOSTALGIA AND POPULAR TRADITION Stephen Greenhorn scatters little items of information about the history (and geography) of Scotland throughout the play. They are never obtrusive but their accuracy gives the play a solid basis for the arguments… Can you find some examples of this? Always in the background of the play are the failures of Scotland’s industries – identify moments which suggest this. Tourism is a growing industry at present but ultimately it depends upon broadcasting a false image of the country and the people - is it doing harm not only to the physical countryside but to the soul of the nation? Iona’s song in Scene 35, is performed in a language the Scots cannot understand, by a girl born and educated abroad – what point is being made here? The off-stage ballad in the same scene provides the backing for Mirren and Alex’s dance – an important stage in their relationship. Why is this relevant? Brian recites Burns – how does Alex react to this? Bink’s behaviour frequently recalls the techniques of variety theatre – the theft of the ice lolly borders on farce. Where else can you find moments of farce or variety? Binks is made a figure of ridicule, even though he represents a genuine evil in society. Find examples of both in the text. The ceilidh, though off stage, creates the mood that helps Alex to relax. It also provides a credible setting for the songs. How important is traditional Scots entertainment to our Highland culture and why? How does this influence Alex and Brian, who have never been exposed to this before? Use the questions noted throughout as a basis for discussion then try to formulate relevant statements. Explain and justify your statements in relation to the following question; “Contemporary Scottish playwrights use popular tradition techniques as an easy way of tapping into their audience’s emotions.” Do you agree with this view? (2012) AS ALWAYS - the MEG formula should be applied… M – Make a point E – Exemplify your point G – Give a quote. MAKE A POINT: Popular tradition techniques, such as the use of Scots music, is used in Passing Places to show that the character of Alex is unsure of his culture, and therefore identity. EXEMPLIFY THE POINT: We see this at the ceilidh when Iona sings to Alex in Gaelic. GIVE A QUOTE: ‘Iona begins to sing, in perfect Gaelic, a lament – Alex listens in astonishment.’ NOW CONCLUDE by referring back to the question Music often stirs emotion in people, and on this occasion, would encourage the audience to consider how they themselves identify with Scots culture. They can question whether they feel that they belong or do not belong in their culture and thus identify with the overarching theme of the play; Scotland and the Scots. I think this shows that popular tradition techniques are used to impact on the audience emotionally. ISSUES OF GENDER Alex and Mirren take most of the play to move from outright hostility to a hint of friendship. There is, even at the end of the play, nothing sexual in their relationship. Why has Alex found it so difficult to form a relationship? Is it relevant that she is female? Remarkably, almost all of the ‘gurus’ are male – Serge, Diesel, Tom and Frank. They have the most life experience, they are most secure in themselves, and are most confident in guiding others. The only woman in the same category is Iona. What does this suggest? Alex begins the play with an archetypically malebehaving badly outlook – work if he must, drink when he can and never look to the future. Over the length of the play he becomes less aggressive, more thoughtful and more sensitive. He can now say the word ‘beautiful’. Consider the other male characters in the play and how they represent masculinity. Are there any differences? Why do you think this is? Use the questions noted throughout as a basis for discussion then try to formulate relevant statements. Explain and justify your statements in relation to the following question; “Contemporary Scottish plays are full of sexual stereotypes.” Discuss this statement. (2007) AS ALWAYS - the MEG formula should be applied… M – Make a point E – Exemplify your point G – Give a quote. MAKE A POINT: Passing Places contributes to the view that contemporary Scottish plays are full of sexual stereotypes via the character of Binks. EXEMPLIFY THE POINT: Binks is an aggressive, violent character, who holds the most power by causing fear in other characters. GIVE A QUOTE: ‘…want your knee caps for castanets’ NOW CONCLUDE by referring back to the question Scottish men are often portrayed as being violent, aggressive and thus powerful/dominant. The character Binks certainly demonstrates this and in turn, proves that contemporary Scottish plays are full of sexual stereotypes.