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Scots Of The Spanish Civil War: Interview With Wonder Fools
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Scots Of The Spanish Civil War: Interview With Wonder Fools

Picture of Nina Ariana
Updated: 3 February 2017
Wonder Fools strives to create engaging drama that is both contemporaneous and historically grounded. Their most recent endeavour is 549, an epic tale of British volunteers who fought under the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. The Culture Trip talks to Wonder Fools about their ongoing creative journey while exploring the true story behind the production and its relevance in the often-turbulent sphere of today’s global social politics.
Wonder Fools performs 549 in Glasgow, April 2015 | Courtesy of 'Jassy Earl Photography'
Wonder Fools performs 549 in Glasgow, April 2015 | Courtesy of ‘Jassy Earl Photography’


Wonder Fools is a Glasgow-based contemporary theatre and performance group, co-founded by Jack Nurse and Robbie Gordon in 2014. They write, direct, produce, and sometimes act in their shows while studying Contemporary Performance Practice at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In 2015, fellow RCS alum Hector Macpherson Brown, who serves as the company’s creative collaborator and producer, joined them. The first staging of 549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War took place in spring of 2015. Development of the material is ongoing, and performances will resume in 2016.


What was your inspiration for 549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War?

The inspiration for the show came from a real passion we have to tell stories that might not be widely known, especially those that hold cultural relevance today. Robbie was particularly interested in this story, as 549 begins in his hometown of Prestonpans. His Grandfather who had been the Lord Provost of the area for several years first told him the story. When he shared it with the rest of us, we knew it was a story that had to be told, not only due to its geographical and historical resonance but also because of the many political parallels that the story has to modern day. Some of the most interesting parallels we have found are those that are central concerns to us today. Common to both times are fears of the rise of right-wing political parties in the mainstream, corporate interests infringing on the rights of working people, and the migrant crisis that is currently unfolding — to name a few. These were some of the themes that we were able to pick out and make relevant to the way we see the world today while still maintaining its power as a vehicle of escapism — the enthralling drama of British men who put their life on the line in the fight against fascism in Spain.

The Cast of 549 performing the war-time ballad, 'Battle of Jarama' | Courtesy of 'Jassy Earl Photography'
The Cast of 549 performing the war-time ballad, ‘Battle of Jarama’ | Courtesy of ‘Jassy Earl Photography’

Could you explain the process that went into development and production? What work is there to be done as you go forward?

The initial process for 549 relied on a lot of academic and web-based research. History books, however, can only take you so far. Massive holes were left in our narrative that we had to fill in with a bit of artistic license. So, in the second stage of development, we were interested in making 549 as authentic as possible. We wanted to fill these gaps in with what really happened. To do this, we contacted relatives of the four men in our story. To our delight, they were happy to meet with us and share what they knew about the people we were writing about. It was overwhelming to receive such a warm response from people who were genuinely interested in helping us out. Over the last few months, we have met family members and friends everywhere, from offices to pubs to even the homes of the people we were interviewing. The information we gathered didn’t just fill the gaps in our research — it went so much further. The knowledge we now have to inform our narrative makes the story more exciting and exhilarating than we could have ever imagined. We have remained in contact with the experts, historians and family members who are now a crucial part in the delivery of 549. We thank them very much for their kindness and help to tell this story as authentically as possible.

What are some of the goals you hope to achieve as you continue to develop and re-stage 549?

We would love to take 549 around Scotland, mainly because it’s a good story and we hope people will enjoy watching it. But its potential to empower people also makes it important for us to share it with as many audiences as we can. One of the core principals of the company is bringing a voice to those stories so often forgotten. The Spanish Civil War, and the accounts of those who fought in it, is often confined to a single page in a school history book. This is how it was introduced to us. The massive contribution that the British people gave in the Spanish Civil War was unknown to us before starting the research process. We hope to bring light to this forgotten conflict, in all its depth and detail.

549 re-opens in 2016. Follow them on social media: