One of the unexpected delights of spending time on Islay is the opportunity to see music and drama of the highest class. Last Saturday, an audience of 70 - 80 people gathered to watch a delightful little gem about the life of a chap from Uist. The production was mainly in Gaelic with english additions although the story was told without dialogue. Instead gaelic songs punctuated the narrative in an understated yet highly effective way. The singer had a lovely voice. We, the audience, had to work and contribute because the production had several layers to it. We were not spoon-fed and this too added to the power of the piece.
Masks, puppets, slides, visuals, mime and atmospheric backing music produced a potent and very moving mix. The set design was low-tech yet the production employed high tech effects to advantage. The masks were really good and conveyed a wide range of emotion with the slightest movements.
The tale is that of a young man pitched from the tranquility of the outer Hebrides into the maelstrom of WW1. He, like so many more, ended up with shell shock. He was hospitalised, and there received electro-shock treatment. This was a powerful and moving story. His claim to fame came from his ability to weave strands of grass into a wide variety of usable objects from bonnets, to boots to halters for the horses. Unfortunately, despite interest from the arts world, his material naturally rotted away. The play also had moments of real humour which reinforced the powerful elements.
Watching this terrific piece of theatre in a week when we finally voted not to bomb folks made it even more resonant.
It was a surprise at the end to find the excellent company - only 4 on stage - were actually from Lancashire, although the singer was from Lewis. They are the ‘Horse and Bamboo Theatre’ and are currently touring in Scotland. Look out for them. They are special.