Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
A man and a woman sit either side of the aisle on the London train. Their eyes meet just for a second, but in that fleeting moment a world of possibilities opens up that sends each on their own personal life and death destiny. As one speeds towards a cliff top with the intention of throwing himself into the void, the other carries with her an unopened letter outlining the results of what may or may not be a life-threatening disease.
From such everyday beginnings, Jim Harbourne’s piece of lo-fi musical storytelling blossoms into a rich tapestry of wisdom and experience set in a world where the decisions you make can change things forever. Harbourne and fellow actor/musician Kirsty Ella McIntyre are the only people on a stage cluttered with a pile of musical instruments, a couple of chairs and a sparkly rucksack. The initial folksy air conjured up by harmonium and guitar patterns soon becomes the soundtrack to a profound hour-long meditation on choice, free will and the power of science to zap its way around the universe in an instant, connecting everything up in its butterfly kiss.
The understated power of Ross Mackay’s production, presented by Harbourne in association with the Tortoise in a Nutshell company, comes in the telling. Harbourne and McIntyre dovetail interlocking monologues inbetween atmospheric interludes on violin and flute, or else engage with a puppet passer-by who doles out advice like a holy fool who ends up saving the day despite himself.
It’s a beautiful construction, and one which taps into a sense of all-pervading collective anxiety with a gentle charm which never shies away from some of the raw poignancy of how life can be turned upside down in an instant. Whatever happens next, Harbourne’s creation is a life-affirming joy worth taking the leap for every minute it breathes.
The Herald, April 22nd 2019