Mairi Campbell

Though This Be Madness

22/05/22

The Studio, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Though This Be Madness deals with both the micro and the macrocosm: a study of one woman’s mental health, and a record of her place in a long line of other women. She is daughter, sister, mother. She is Shakespeare’s heroines.

This is Skye Loneragan’s scattershot depiction of a new mother, struggling to finish a sentence without being interrupted by a baby’s cry, and it’s a haphazard, palpably stressful piece. ‘The Land of the Lounge Room’ is messy, with toys strewn everywhere, and our protagonist has given up trying to tidy them away. There’s no point, is there? Her body’s been ravaged; she doesn’t remember what sleep feels like; her doctor’s unsympathetic and her mother thinks she shares too much. Oh, and her sister’s schizophrenic.

There’s a lot to process here. The fragmented, unstructured narrative works well to convey a sense of disconnection and distraction, but it also means that not everything lands, and that some interesting ideas are lost in the chaos. The references to Shakespeare’s women, in particular, feel under-explored.

Loneragan is an engaging performer (with exemplary mime skills). I like the symbolism of the post-it notes and the overt circularity of the piece, and Mairi Campbell’s music lends it an eerie – almost hypnotic – air. In the end, however, I can’t help feeling this piece is both too much and too little: too many ideas for the short running time, and too little made of the best of them.

3 stars

Susan Singfield

Lyceum Variety Night 3

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04/06/17

Lyceum, Edinburgh

Flint and Pitch’s Variety Nights are fast becoming a thing of legend. Hosts Jenny Lindsay and Sian Bevan are as engaging and irreverent as ever, setting the tone for another fun-filled evening in their company.

Tonight’s proceedings kick off with a song from Maud the Moth, an interesting jazz-classical-fusion band built around the distinctive vocal stylings of Amaya Lopez-Carromero, featuring keyboards, drums, violins and, on the opening number, Queen Maud, electric guitar. It makes for a haunting start and I’m already looking forward to hearing more from them later.

Up next is Kieran Hurley, a storyteller whose schtick, he tells us, doesn’t really lend itself to ten-minute pieces, shorn of context. Still, he manages to contextualise tonight’s reading with wit and brevity, and it’s a real treat: an excerpt from his 2013 play, Beats. Two intertwining monologues tell us the story of an illegal rave – and we’re hanging on to his every word.

Audrey Tait and Michelle Lowe are The Miss’s, a Scottish singing/songwriting duo with a compelling set tonight. Tait’s plaintive voice is the perfect foil for Lowe’s more gutsy vocals, and they absolutely take my breath away. I love these two and could listen all night.

But it’s a variety night, so of course we are moved swiftly on. And it’s fine, because Caroline Bird’s performance poetry is a delight; in fact, she’s our favourite act of the evening. Her diffident, unshowy persona allows her poems to shine – and shine they do. They’re as charming as she is, illuminating dark truths about love, life and mental illness with cheerfulness and compassion. We’ll certainly be seeking out more of her work.

Jack Webb is the first dancer/choreographer to grace the Lyceum Variety Night’s stage, and this is certainly a very striking piece. Let’s be honest, interpretive dance isn’t an area we know much about, and we’re not sure we fully understand all this performance wants to say, but it is nevertheless clearly a corporal feat, all precision and control, conveying pain and a heightened sense of physicality.

It’s safe to say that Mairi Campbell is unique – she plays the viola and sings which is a pretty unusual combination, but she makes it work really effectively. She gives us a brace of memorable folk-tinged songs, the last one involving us all singing along on the chorus, and it’s evident why she won the Instrumentalist of the Year award in 2016.

Kathleen Jamie is a poet in the most traditional sense. She offers us a collection of lyrical pieces based around the beauty of the Scottish landscape and her childhood memories. The one that covers stamp collecting is a particular delight (and that’s not a line you get to say very often). Weirdly, despite winning a whole plethora of awards since her first in 1981, she doesn’t come across as the most confident of performers – but there’s no doubting the quality of her work.

It’s left to Maud the Moth to come on and finish off the night with three more of their excellent songs and highly original songs, before we head back to (as Jenny and Sian point out) the harsh reality of the world. An excellent night then and we only have one minor quibble – why have we still not managed to win the raffle?

4.5 stars

Susan Singfield and Philip Caveney