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by Margaret Chrystall
Sell A Door Theatre Company almost had you at ‘Hello’ with their production of Sunset Song – in an opening moment where Rebecca Elise expressed the essence of her character and her experiences in just one long look out from the top of the set over Chris Guthrie’s beloved farm of Blawearie in the Mearns.
Love of the land she surveyed, a childlike curiosity, vulnerability, nostalgic sorrow for the farm and family so changed by time and war – but also a hope for the future with her second love, minister Robert Colquohoun – it was all expressed in the actress’s face in those few moments.
But though Elise gave a luminous performance throughout the often grim and tragic story, it also needed the talented supporting cast to bring Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s whole community of Kinraddie to life.
Presented in this anniversary year of the First World War, Grassic Gibbon’s novel certainly highlights the horror, pointlessness and damage of war – and specifically THAT war – in a way that must still have seemed controversial in 1932 when the book was published.
Now we’re more used to those bitter truths, but the rawness of Chris’s own story still bites in Alasdair Cording’s much-performed stage version.
As ever, the music that adds so much to the quite wordy script, was a welcome distraction. And though the device seems more dated these days – actors doubling as the more than able musicians they are – under musical director Morna Young, this production made the idea fresh. The wedding scene in particular used music beautifully just adding to the rare sense of uncomplicated joy in the story, while The Flowers O’ The Forest added real poignancy and was a perfect choice to convey the real waste that the tragedy of war inflicted on Kinraddie.