Mairi Campbell: Pulse

Sep 8 2017 | By More

★★★★☆    Creative and Captivating

Scottish Storytelling Centre: Thurs 3 – Sun 27 Aug 2017
Review by Dylan Taylor

Mairi Campbell’s transcendental one-woman show, Pulse, brings a vibrant energy to the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Campbell’s production, co-devised with Kath Burlinson (who also directs), weaves together Campbell’s own coming-of-age story with breathtaking original pieces of music by Campbell and Sound Designer Dave Gray.

Mairi Campbell. Photo: Julia Fayngruen

Campbell sings and plays her way through a panorama of experiences as she moves around the world and slowly begins to uncover her rich musical roots. David Francis provides additional lyrics to her expressive songs.

Campbell’s intense passion for her music and heritage fills each scene with an infectious exuberance that keeps the performance captivating. Campbell runs through many variations of emotion, both happy and sad, but always maintains a sense of humour. Her impersonations of family and acquaintances which punctuate the story demonstrate her knack for comic timing.

The animation work of Claire Lamond and graphic design of Helen Wyllie imbue the performance with a primal ambience. The collections of dotted lines that light up the stage’s black backdrop seem to reach back to humanity’s ancient past, joining Campbell’s modern journey to a much older and longer one.

Maria Macdonald’s lighting design adds much to the tale’s telling. A beautiful scene towards the beginning of the performance finds a romantic Campbell moving her hands under a single shaft of bright light while reflecting on a hypothetical future with the man she loves. It is one of the play’s remarkable moments.

expansive view

The only real set piece on stage is an ancient-looking pendulum consisting of a circular stone suspended from a string and attached to wooden rods. Tim Vincent-Smith’s purposely crude design adds further to the aesthetic on display here, which so strikingly conveys an expansive view of human history.

The show’s ambitious attempt to encapsulate both Campbell’s life experiences and their connection to her native Scottish land gives the first part of the show a somewhat loose construction that takes some getting used to. The creative mixing of tribal-like movements, unique uses of sound, and narration through dialogue eventually begins to make sense as an atmosphere is formed. By the end, everything suddenly seems to have come together.

The show’s power comes from this more slowly-digested significance. It leaves an impression, aiming not merely to entertain, but to make us reflect on our own deep ties to the past.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30), 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR
Thursday 5 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Odd dates only: 5pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
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