Blood and Roses
Multi-sensory journey with history’s courageous women
This article is from 2011.
Edinburgh’s tendency towards the wet would seem an admonishment against a promenade performance. The northeast’s Poorboy, whose raison d’être is the site specific, doesn’t shy away from the less sunny sides of life.
Listening via individual headsets the staging for this audio play by director and writer Sandy Thompson is a guided exploration through the streets of Edinburgh’s West End, public buildings and art installations. As the physical journey progresses a cacophony of (mostly female) voices trace lines in history, genealogy and storytelling from Russia and Scotland. The parallel paths unite in the relationship of a Scottish girl and her Russian boyfriend.
The stories, conversations and songs revolve around female relationships, both familial and romantic, and the often terrible acts women are made to endure, choose to commit or are accused of. In the Russian strand, folkloric witch Baba Yaga is invoked in three stories about protagonists who have to stomach courageous acts. In Scotland the influence of Isobel Gowdie, who confessed to witchcraft in 1662, is traced down a line of free-thinking women. The heady mix of stories creates a powerful evocation of the indomitable human spirit, in these instances female.
Jen Robson’s art installations are collections of beautifully delicate paper sculpture, family photographs and collections of objects. Each stop allows time to absorb the visual accompaniment then focus on the audio.
The multi-sensory approach to conveying epic themes is fantastic when events coalesce (a brisk wind fortuitously picking up during a description of a storm, the majesty of St Mary’s Cathedral) but the practicalities of navigating streets on a schedule can easily divert attention. The scope of the experience is an enticing proposition and when it works, marrying aural, visual and physical, transporting the audience into the heart of the story, it is really something special.
St George’s West, 225 7001, until 27 Aug, 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, & 3.30pm, £12–£15 (£10–£12).