Assembly Halls Edinburgh August 13th 2017
Having written and produced a radio documentary on Scottish emigration I have always taken a keen interest on projects covering the same topic. This musical play is part of a two strand new joint production by RCS and Northwestern University in Chicago running throughout the festival. Written by Scott Gilmore & Claire McKenzie focuses on not so much on those who left these sceptered isles but the ones left behind and the effect loss had on them. So we meet a teenage Evie (brilliantly played by Caroline Lyell) on a beach staring out across the mighty Atlantic dreaming and her first love Quinn (Reed Lancaster) possessing all the enthusiasm of youth and a hunger to explore the world outside of the confining restrictions of small island life. Those islands depend on their very existence on keeping the young tethered to home so that traditional skills continue to flourish and new industries can be developed. Quinn is having none of it and tries to persuade Evie to travel the world as his sidekick but to no avail. So Evie is subsumed within island life eventually marrying dull but loving mill owner Sloane (Osian Garmon). Quinn keeps secretly writing regularly for years as his adventures and fortunes expand whilst for Evie marriage, whilst happy enough, constantly leaves her wondering what if she had made the other choice to leave. How different could her life have been? As the years pass and Evie becomes a mother herself her turmoil looms ever larger until Sloane discovers her stash of letters which pushes her into drastically attempting to take her own life. With sparse staging consisting of four wooden pallets, the odd ball of wool, some rope and a pillow the cast evoke most tellingly island life, including Evie’s time in the water, and life found in the Americas. The musical score is particularly strong mixing a few well known traditional numbers sitting alongside newly written tunes and songs generating a tapestry upon which the cast sprinkle their magic. If I had one slight negative comment it would be that the room was quite large and even with my pretty good hearing some of the lyrics would have drifted off by the time it hit a few rows behind me let alone to the back. None of the cast were mic’d up so essentially you had an acoustic production in a big room. As Evie’s natural life is drawing to a close her daughter, Skye (Rachel Guth) is facing the same dilemma as to whether to stay on the island or take her chance of a different life away from the island. Will she or won’t she? Now that would be telling. This is a thought provoking, heartbreaking production of the highest order and one I have no hesitation in recommending to you.