Edinburgh Fringe 2010
This is for those who enjoy large scale more traditional productions. It is solidly staged using media installations and a large colourful cast. It is a simple story on an epic scale and this company have created a fine spectacle.
It is the time of the Highland Clearances and Catrine lives in a small fishing community in the North of Scotland with her husband. The young men must go to sea to fish for their livelihoods, chiefly for herring, or ‘Silver Darlings’. It is a dangerous business and Catrine’s husband is killed when she is expecting a child. There follows the story of her boy Finn as he grows up, the scourge the Plague brings and the courtship of local man Roddy.
Adapted for the stage by Scottish playwright Peter Arnott, the book is a work with many themes and he has focused on what fits a stage setting: the personal dramas and relationships within a small, struggling community. Director Kenny Ireland has done a sound job of telling the story. The narration is split between the cast as they speak together out to the audience like in a chorus, or individually, from different parts of the stage as they go about their business. To start with this device feels a bit amateurish, but considering it is an adaptation, it is probably the most efficient method. The pace is cracking and at the start it even feels a bit rushed but when we get into it, like a book, we are well immersed in the story and characters.
With designer Hayden Griffin, Ireland has used the large stage sparingly. A particularly effective device is the multimedia set behind the action. Here black and white images of countryside and sea are projected, and in one scene Finn walks in font of it like on a road and in another climbs up a cliff. Actor and image are juxtaposed beautifully here, and the simple black and white colouring feels authentic. I enjoyed the comedic scene in the doctors surgery and the one in the local pub was also very nice. But it is the scene in the fishing boat that really stands out. Thick smoke oozes across the stage, enveloping the boat as it struggles with the sea. Finn has to dive in and climb the cliff to save the crew. It is the most dramatic moment in the play, and I perhaps would have liked to have seen more such moments.
Meg Frazer, who plays mother Catrine,puts in a very fine performance. She shows real depth of feeling as she watches her husband leave her, her mother die of the plague and the mixed feelings that arise when watching a difficult son grow and develop. Duncan Anderson as Finn is a young actor growing in maturity. And all the cast put in a good ensemble performance.
This is not exactly groundbreaking but will appeal to more traditional theatre crowds. In its own right, without having a very dramatic storyline, it is a solid piece of work due particularly to the peformance of Frazer, Ireland’s epic direction and Griffin’s design.