Friday, 28 April 2017

On the Radical Road

Summerhall, Edinburgh
Three stars

For an ever increasing fan-base, the work of Hamish Henderson remains a force to be reckoned with. Poet, song-writer, folk-lorist and freedom fighter, Henderson's influence continues to trickle down the generations. This new hour-long compendium of work presented by the Edinburgh-based Theatre Objektiv as part of Tradfest keeps the spirit of the old master's voice to the fore in a more formal presentation than old haunts of Henderson's such as Sandy Bell's might allow.

Subtitled Enacting Hamish Henderson, the show is a journey of sorts that charts Henderson's adventures in words and music that attempts, in his own words, to use poems as weapons. With musical director and institution in his own right Alastair McDonald leading the charge, he and the three other members of the show's on-stage troupe rattle their way around France, Italy and World War Two. In just under an hour, there are also shout-outs for Nelson Mandela, digs at Hugh MacDiarmid en route.

This is performed by McDonald, Isabella Jarrett, Vanda De Luca and Gavin Paul in a loose-knit choral form that is neither concert nor drama, but which more resembles a kind of choreographed political cabaret. Knitted together and directed by playwright Raymond Raszkowski Ross, who edited Henderson's Collected Poems and Songs, published in 2000, there is barely a pause for breath throughout. This makes for a fluid freedom of movement, not just in a geographical sense, but in Raszkowski Ross and co's ebullient encapsulation of Henderson's socially engaged internationalist imagination. In an unashamedly partisan affair, Raszkowski Ross has sculpted an appealing pop-up construction designed for devotees and novices alike to keep the Henderson flame alive.

The Herald, May 1st 2017

ends

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