Monday, 28 March 2016

The Air That Carries The Weight

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Bird-song permeates the air as the audience settle in to watch Rebecca Sharp's poignant and elegiac dramatic tone poem on loss and life. These little chirrups are just a hint of the ancient whispers that will skitter around the room later in Muriel Romanes' production, a fittingly lovely finale to her tenure as artistic director of the Stellar Quines company.

In a dilapidated cottage surrounded by bare trees in the wild cross-winds of Argyll, three women stand, attuning themselves to a seemingly unfavourable environment. The first, Isobel, as played by Melody Grove, is the most discomforted as she both mourns and excavates her shared history with Pauline Lockhart's Yvonne. Pivoting around them both is the real life figure of Marion Campbell, the Kintyre-based archaeologist and explorer of the land she inhabited, and here played with wise grace by Alexandra Mathie. Out of this comes a series of criss-crossing meditations that becomes a voyage of discovery for Isobel even as she comes to terms with ghosts who watch over her like cross-generational angels.

It's rare for all of a play's different elements to be so connected as they are when Sharp's poetic imaginings are made flesh by a beguiling trio of performances. The light and shade of John Byrne's pastoral-domestic design, Jeanine Byrne's flickering lighting and Pippa Murphy's ornate and arcane score wrap around each other like intertwining roots that nurture each other as they go. All of this is tended with gossamer-like precision by Romanes, who makes a slow-burning ritual out of Sharp's heartfelt text which, by embracing the life left behind, honours the dead with the most beautiful of tributes.

The Herald, March 28th 2016

ends

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