FringeReview Scotland 2020
This is a collection of songs and stories that have been inspired from original songs by the band, Whyte. The collection is curated in a episodic manner to allow us to hear the singing of a father, the wonderment of the young at a Ceilidh, the history of depopulation and loss of Gaelic in Scotland, the swallowing of a village by nature, performing at a Mod, Aberdonian coastal creep, a creepy American tycoon buying up the land, a community lost and hidden by trees and a finale of statuesque defiance. This is played out through an impressive combination of video projection, movement, BSL, narrative and song.
Episodic in structure, the necessity of the format is designed round the music. It has a quality of its origins insofar as the Gael’s relationship to the land is oral and inviolate. Song is interspersed with the observational and personal enquiry from a variety of narration which has highlights including the child seeking approval from her father and the dispossessed asking for support in the fight for survival.
The episodes can however be problematic. The beginning creatively sets the scene of their enquiry and our interaction. It is about a young child telling us of her awe at the Ceilidh, hearing her father sing when she thought he rarely did. The beauty of his voice is then matched by the inquisitive nature of the child. It gives us the agenda for what follows. Unfortunately, there are times when that storyline meanders rather than convinces; at times too the direction seemed odd such as when the father’s stance is altered and he is moved to turn one way and then the other, perhaps a visual metaphor too far… The beauty of the language and the majesty of song does not paper sufficiently over some of the cracks as we travel the literal landscape.
When it works it is a wonderful journey with some excellent movement pieces. They were the high point, none so more effective than the final montage. The balance between each performer ably gave us a visual metaphor of how we should support the retention and development of the language. All four performers were exceptional in their craft and connections with each other and therefore for us.
Is it needless to say, that the music was superb? What was most impressive was that it layered the theatricality of the piece well. The lighting was suitably subtle and effective whilst the set, dominated by two video screens was used to good effect. The split of live and recorded movement was well done though I found some of the landscapes repetitive and slightly distracting.
In an attempt to become accessible, we were provided with subtitles and integrated BSL – with a performer who is a fluent sign user! As a Scot without the Gaelic, I found this tremendously helpful. My curiosity was piqued by the beauty of the language and the desire to know more whilst being more aware of the issues contained in the piece was ably served by this accessibility. For that I was very grateful because it allowed me access to the underlying majesty of it all.
Theatrically this was a beautiful blend between movement, language, the music and the connection to the land. It left me curios as to what would have happened all those years ago when the Can Seo tapes dropped through my letterbox and I lost my determination to become a fluent speaker; it took far less time to lose the desire than it took to watch Maim. As a reminder that in my own country we have a beauty and a shared heritage this was superior fayre. I was niggled by parts but enthralled by the whole.