Fringe Online 2021
Five films from Mull Theatre which bring the abilities of a crop of Scottish theatrical bright spots together to show off. From Stella by Morna Young, we get Scots in its glory, in a story of a wean frae Harris who wants tae sail oan the stars, but meets a skeptical careers dominie – ken them aw – A Pickpocket’s Tale by Uma Nada-Rajah which takes a very original spin on the way the pandemic has hit out burgeoning industries as a young girl bemoans the lack of crowds as the lack of opportunity to ply her own trade – with a relationship developing throughout the story of another conspiratorial character – the lizard people. We then have The Shark was Aware of Me by Alan Bissett, which has the story of one woman of a certain age, looking for answers which come from a surprising place. The Night You Were Born by Ellie Stewart surprises once again as it pertains to the birth of an elephant rather than to any significant human event with hunters being thwarted through an alliance that cares. Finally, Quelle Trapeze by Laurie Motherwell ends with further surprise as the circus once again stands as metaphor for another form of journey for our guide Olly as a drunk man gets to contemplate thorny issues that are not a thistle.
Not for the first time, Scottish theatre has found an imaginative response to the pandemic. All of these little films could easily fit into a teaching resource for the use of animation or storytelling as these 5/10-minute bursts show how to be creative within a cooperative setting. If the writers give a secure and creative platform, then both the animators and the actors have used that platform to great effect.
Stella, written by Morna Young is a delight on the ears and I love the way in which it has refused to compensate for the use of the leid. MJ Deans performs it beautifully and her lilting voice takes you with her as the animation by Kate Charter matches the ethereal childlike journey of a dream, we used to all have – escape to the magical. With music and sound design by Gary Cameron, this is a treat.
A Pickpocket’s Tale by Uma Nada-Rajah was so original in its premise, it was hard not to love. Performed by Sarah Miele, who has the wide eyed bedevilment of the protagonist spot on, this is enhanced by the animation by Cat Bruce, though I found it a bit Chrystal Tips and Alastair – people of a certain vintage might get that… With music and sound design by Pippa Murphy it delighted in its originality.
The Shark Was Aware of Me, written by Alan Bissett was my favourite, mainly because of the performance of Alison Peebles. She has the voice to captivate, intrigue and promise and I was transfixed listening to her interwoven tale. The animation, (Gavin Glover), with additional effects by Fergus Dunnet and the music (Rowan McIlvride) ably helped by David Moré, just added to it being so special. It has a multi-layer simplicity which sounds like a paradox but needs to be heard to be understood.
The Night You Were Born by Ellie Stewart, had a stellar performance Daniela Nardini which again matched wonderfully the actor to the story. It was equalled by the animation by John Kielty & James Kielty and music and sound design by John Kielty. Like Pickpocket before it, I went in wondering about this and what it would cover and was delighted by its surprise.
Finally, and by no means lastly, Quelle Trapeze written by Laurie Motherwell manages to capture the childlike desire to escape which is perhaps a little prominent in all of us right now. Performed by Andrew Rothney, he brings that wonderment to your ears in a tremendous narration that keeps you watching the great animation by Nisan Yetkin. Alongside the music and sound design by Simon Liddell this is both a visual and aural treat.
In a year where we needed creativity, this ticks every box. It provides escapism in such a beautiful and challenging manner. We are asked to look at the themes emerging amongst us without having it lectured and woodenly asked of us – why else would we love the arts so much if it was not for asking the right questions in quite an innovative manner. Box ticked – what you waiting for – they are online for a year!