Kirsty Findlay: 'This is just a tiny wee story, but to the characters it means everything'

This article is from 2019


The performer discusses eschewing major production values to tell a big story in the musical play Islander

A desire to explore pastures new is part of everyone's adolescence, yet so is the need for comfort and familiarity. Living on a small island with her grandmother, Eilidh longs for adventure but can't bear to leave behind the beauty and wildlife of home to join her mother on the busy mainland.

Capturing island life and the myriad characters who come into Eilidh's world could easily have involved a complex soundtrack, elaborate set and large cast. But in Islander, just two performers embody our young heroine, a clutch of annoying neighbours, gran, a visiting scientist and a mysterious girl who opens Eilidh's eyes to the world.

All of this comes without costume changes or props; just two microphones, a loop pedal, and their voices create beautiful harmonies and evoke everyday sounds of land and sea. 'I'd never used a loop pedal before, so it took a lot of practise and multi-tasking to get my head around it,' laughs performer Kirsty Findlay. 'When we were devising the show, we talked a lot about the different sounds you would hear and how we could make those sounds and create a natural ambience with our voices and bodies.'

The show has been touring to widespread acclaim, playing in intimate venues where the audience is inches away from Findlay and co-performer Bethany Tennick. And their Fringe venue, the Roundabout, is the perfect place for Islander to call home. 'Because the show is performed in the round, we can hear everything the audience says, like "how are they doing that!?" when we create sounds with the pedal. And the Roundabout is this little hub right in the middle of the Fringe; and I think that's what Islander is in a way. You're zooming in on a little part of the world, there's loads of stuff going on outside and this is just a tiny wee story, but to the characters it means everything to them.'

Islander: A New Musical, Summerhall, 4–25 Aug (not 6, 13, 20), 10am, £14–£15 (£8–£12); Previews 31 Jul–3 Aug, £9–£14 (£10).

Islander: A New Musical

  • 4 stars

Helen Milne Productions Eilidh stares out to sea and dreams of a new life beyond her lonely island. Myth and reality collide when the tide washes a mysterious stranger onto her beach, changing her life forever. Epic storytelling, intimately staged with a contemporary Scottish folk-inspired score. The cast live-record and…