WHEN dramatists depict post-apocalyptic scenarios, they usually like to paint the last person standing as a hero with a mission, or at the very least someone who digs deep to find some bravery he or she never knew they had.
This is emphatically not the case with ‘wee Davey fae Tynecastle’ (fae being Scottish slang for ‘from’), a character created by Greg ‘Gary: Tank Commander’ McHugh for short piece, Naeb’dy.
It is one of more than 50 dramas put together by the National Theatre of Scotland for its Scenes For Survival series of shorts, all of which were created in lockdown. Others in the series feature the likes of Brian Cox, Janey Godley, Mark Bonnar and Peter Mullan.
Greg’s film, which he wrote, directed and stars in, takes the form of a video diary filmed over four months, beginning at the start of May when Davey hasn’t seen anyone else for two weeks. In his next entry, six weeks later, he talks about the fact that there’s no milk, and he is starting to realise how serious the situation is.
‘I’m always a fan of the anti-hero,’ says Greg of his latest creation. ‘I wouldn’t describe this guy as a hero at all. He seems unlikely to have been the last person to survive, which is always an interesting idea. I like the idea of unlikely characters — going back to Gary: Tank Commander [a camp and friendly army guy], and I liked the character traits of Howard in Fresh Meat [a socially awkward guy who’s older than the other students he shares a house with] because he was actually the unlikely rock of the house in that situation.
‘Davey’s not a doctor; he’s not an army specialist. He’s just a guy from the Tynecastle area in Edinburgh who’s a bit of a geezer who, for whatever reason — he doesn’t know — survives.’
It seems that something in his life may not have worked out quite as Davey hoped, which is why he was alone at the start of the viral outbreak — and that, ironically, was what kept him safe.
It’s a testament to the subtle strengths in Greg’s performance that we get an insight into Davey’s sense of himself when, in mid-July, he realises he is the last person alive and we witness a little glint of pride that suggests this is a man who’s not really used to winning things.
‘He is someone who hasn’t achieved a lot in his life,’ explains Greg. ‘I wanted to highlight the fact that he kind of survives because he’s on his own, but he also has no one to share this joy with, so he captures it on his own on his camera.’
Telling this short story in the form of a video diary was also a handy way of bypassing the need for proper film kit.
‘I’m always conscious of how things shot on phones can look. We didn’t have the luxury of production values, so I had to make sure the narrative and what I was trying to do were deliberately into a mobile phone,’ Gary explains.
It certainly does the trick. With that single device and one man’s talent we go on a short and involving journey that takes in optimism, anxiety, pride and, ultimately, risk-taking behaviour.
But how about Greg? Would he cope if he was the last man alive? ‘I would struggle,’ he says. ‘I’m a people person. I’d miss my family too much — although the idea of going around shops and picking and choosing what I’d like, and turning music up as loud as I wanted, would be attractive for 24 hours. After that I’d really start to struggle.’
■ All the Scenes For Survival shorts are available to watch for free at nationaltheatrescotland.com