1917: A Phantasmagoria

Michael Daviot

Sweet Holyrood

From 03 August 2017 to 27 August 2017

Rating: ****

Review by Graeme Strachan

Opening on an eerie stage and hid behind a thin white curtain, a pealing of midnight bells precedes Michael Daviot's entrance to the stage. Bedecked in a white suit, with a deathly pallor, he proclaims himself the spirit of the year 1917, and thenceforce enacts it!

What Daviot has brought to the stage is itself no mean feat. A whistlestop tour of events and personalities throughout the year in question, ranging from the amusing struggles of W B Yeats's attempts to find a wife and the Ottoman surrender of Jerusalem to the horrors of Passchendale and the execution of Mata Hari.

Showing an amazing range of vocalisms and an impressive physicality, Daviot embodies each situation with a unique and unmistakable personality. It manages to amuse, touch and horrify, most notably with the tragic and horrifying depiction of the murder of Ell Persons, lynched and burned alive for a crime he never committed.

More than that, the deep and unavoidable resonances between the events of 1917 and the present day draw the piece deeper, with hints at the cyclic nature of time and the foolishness of ever-repeated actions. It's a thrilling performance and a testament to the skill and versatility an actor can possess.