Shetland is somewhere I have never really thought too much about. Even having visited it as a teenager, I’m sad to say I can only really remember fields and a ceilidh involving men dressed as Vikings (which you would think would have piqued my interest more than it did). Having seen Marjolein Robertson’s Da Shetland Spree, I’m starting to wish I’d taken in my surroundings more.
Performed to a predominantly older audience (other than the performer, I may have been the youngest person in the room by about fifteen years), this was a story of growing up in a rural community not many know too much about. The stories of living in a small community, and the closeness inherent to it, lead to some solid punchlines, and some surprisingly dark twists at times.
Robertson takes a page out of the Sarah Silverman playbook by acting sweet and innocent before revealing a dirty or subversive endpoint to a routine. However, the strongest parts of the show are the moments where we leave the stories behind and lurch towards the more surreal. A flirty message asking about fishing in Shetland (it makes sense in context) leads to a wonderful piece about fish holidaying, and a physical portion about Brian Adams is pure gold.
I feel, however, that in some ways Robertson is let down by her audience. She has a significant online following due to her videos on Shetland for the BBC, and it feels the audience isn’t always ready or expecting the more subversive material that she employs live. That isn’t to say that it is bad at all – I greatly enjoyed it – however it did lead to some moments of quiet awkwardness inside the very sweaty Stand room.
Really, this is a coming-of-age sort of show, with some wonderful storytelling, and a gripping performance that should appeal to anyone with a rebellious streak from a rural background.
Da Shetland Spree runs until the 25th of August – buy tickets here.