The Idiot at the Wall
Promising debut from English/Gaelic company
This article is from 2012.
Elspeth Turner’s play was inspired by Gaelic folktales and songs and there’s certainly something comfortingly old-fashioned and fable-like about the storytelling here. The familiar enough premise – the culture clash between metropolitan sophistication and the abiding customs of an isolated rural community – is brought to bear on a Hebridean island in the months following the First World War. Sorcha Mackenzie (Lucy Goldie) has returned to her island home after many years in London, this time in the company of upper class Henry Rathbone (Tim Barrow), an enthusiastic student of Gaelic culture. While Sorcha has set her sights on another Rathbone brother and a lifestyle that’s worlds away from her origins, Henry himself is captivated by the island and her inhabitants, notably Sorcha’s unworldly but spirited sister Odhran (an excellent performance from Turner).
Pared down from its original two-hour version to just over an hour, the first production by Edinburgh-based English/Gaelic theatre company First Bicycle does a fine job of conjuring up the isolated, otherworldly landscape of Odhran’s island, thanks to the atmospheric set design and sound (by Eve Murray and Julia Brown respectively), the inter-scene use of Gaelic songs and incidental music composed and arranged by Murdo Turner and Tim du Feu. While some of the characters, particularly the incomer Henry and social climber Sorcha, feel rather archetypal, the strength of the ensemble makes for an engaging experience, particularly during the moving finale.
Bedlam Theatre, run now ended.