Douglas Maxwell’s ambitious new play, I Can Go Anywhere, blends 1960s Mod youth culture with modern day asylum narratives. Discrediting his upcoming citizenship test, Jimmy questions how knowing about Mod culture makes you any less British than knowing about dead kings and queens. It doesn’t. Nevertheless, this stark question opens the debate per the role and instrumentalisation of (sub)cultures in Britain.
Actors Nebli Basani and Paul McCole are (self-admittedly) near caricatures of themselves, to great effect. Basani’s jittery Jimmy is the embodiment of Mod, exploding onto the piece engulfed within his oversized painted parka and pork pie hat. McCole, as the disillusioned cultural academic Stevie, counterweights Jimmy’s enthusiastic embrace of Mod culture in his elusive pursuit of asylum. Despite the surprising, sometimes inconsistent, acceleration of the storyline, the cast excel in livening their complex characters.
Fundamentally, I Can Go Anywhere is a celebration and critical take on youth culture. Maxwell’s script makes explicit the political instrumentalisation of culture for class and economic control, situating the Mods as hyperexaggerations of capitalist tropes. Counter to the inherent materialism of Mod culture, Stevie is sufficiently disenchanted to sacrifice his records, his most prized ‘things’. Yet, this same culture is simultaneously used by both displaced characters for protection, as a ‘castle’ safe from the exclusionary cannons which threaten to fire their way.
A door and a target are the only persisting elements in Jen McGinley’s movable set. This stark, single-room layout facilitate the actors’ dynamism, and highlights the more subtle artistic choices. As the first door disappears, both Stevie and Jimmy are trapped in their absurd situation, forcing them to consider the piece’s challenging cultural questions.
In the post-show discussion, a Fred Perry-clad audience member proudly remarked a Noel Gallagher quip included in the piece, boasting its exact origin. I Can Go Anywhere explores and transcends these moments of personal identification within the cultural collective – in that, it hits its target.
I Can Go Anywhere runs at the Traverse Theatre until 21 December 2019.