St Kilda, Island of the Birdmen, Festival Theatre
Tuesday 18 August 2009
This opening production of the international festival was an ambitious and unique operatic event about a lost community on the most westerly of the Scottish islands, now Britain's only dual World Heritage Site.
When the British government evacuated St Kilda in 1930, there was only a handful of surviving inhabitants. The festival reclaims the place for the theatre in a remarkable fusion of photography, acrobatics (filmed and live), choral music of waves and birdsong, and Gaelic poetry.
An enigmatic caretaker is approached by a film crew making a documentary. With him as our guide, we follow a wedding ceremony, a fowling trip to the neighbouring island of Boreray, a subsequent tragedy, the climactic exodus to the mainland and an eternal dance on the cliff tops reverberating with the echo of the birds.
Admittedly it was difficult to follow the detail of the 90-minute narrative without the programme notes, and the mood was one of almost unrelieved gloom. But Thierry Poquet's production – performed in Gaelic, French and English – successfully integrated all the elements, with chorus and acrobats melding into the scenery projected on two big screens.
There's a love story, and a close-knit community of boatmen and farmers, strained through the choreography of Juha-Pekka Marsalo and the plaintive, evocative music of composers David P Graham and Jean-Paul Dessy, played by the five-strong Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 2 Pub landlord captures moment customer falls over on CCTV – just like Del Boy did on Only Fools and Horses
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: We're back alright, but on very familiar ground
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
Eurovision 2015: What date is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Game of Thrones, season 5 episode 4, review: Sansa in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Noel Gallagher 'cannot wait' to hear Oasis-inspired One Direction album but rants about 'pointless' Tidal and Spotify
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show