Eden Court, Inverness
Wednesday, March 28
Recreating the feel of a dilapidated Hebridean cottage in the OneTouch Theatre, The Dwelling Place asked its audience to consider the slow erosion of the island way of life.
Throughout the hour, brothers Jamie and Lewis Wardrop try to conjure up this idea of island life – its intimacy, its sense of community – and how it was disrupted and damaged through the encroachment of lords and landowners with their ideas of how the islands should be economically mobilised.
Though here in the OneTouch, with the seats pulled back to create an open space for the show, all the items appeared so distant and disparate from each other in this cavernous environment. Old shirts ostensibly from the cottage hang 10 feet above our heads from its high ceilings.
Yet there are problems too, beyond the space. The Dwelling Place as a piece has certain beats it hits again and again: images of the decay and ruin of the old cottage projected around the hall, sudden bursts of loud dissonant music cutting through a peaceful moment, and the brothers’ low, menacing recitations of old poetry and books in a manner that made them sound like Arab Strap B-Sides.
The first couple of times it’s pleasingly challenging, but by the time a particularly aggressive burst of atonal accordion playing has forced a member of the audience to flee from the theatre with his fingers in his ears, I’m left feeling bored and slightly frustrated by the whole thing.
The whole production as a whole came across as somewhat shapeless – a series of disconnected vignettes and first-draft ideas that didn’t fully mesh together into a cohesive whole.
And yet there were moments that were beautiful, standing out like lighthouses in the din and squall of this production. In particular, the section in which the brothers Wardrop recreate the feel of the old ceilidhs worked magnificently.
The lighting flickering like a roaring fire, the audience drawn from the empty spaces around the theatre space into one corner, with Jamie telling old stories paired alongside Lewis’s fiddle-playing offered up the most idyllic and perfect snapshot of island life that one could hope for. It was a moment of intimacy that this production so desperately required.
Then everything sank back into the din of electronic beeping and ominous poetry, and that moment was lost. Maybe that was the point – but that doesn’t make the Dwelling Place any less frustrating to experience.
What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker