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The Idiot at the Wall

Elspeth Turner
First Bicycle
The Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh

The Idiot at the Wall

The Hebrides 1919, two sisters are reunited after one went away to England and found her way into high society. Despite being set nearly a century ago on an isolated island the story is quite accessible. The use of Gaelic adds eloquuence not confusion to the story with its lyrcism.

Sorcha Mackenzie (Lucy Goldie) returns from London with Henry Rathbone (Tim Barrow), a Lord whose has been assigned to inspect the island's schools. Barrow's Henry is enthusiasistic but awkward and quickly becomes entranced by the uninhibited islanders in particular Sorcha's sister Odhran (Elspeth Turner).

Many of the incidents of the play are derived from island folklore with the sisters' brother Uistean (Simon Eilberg), the 'idiot' of the title being not just the village idiot but also a seer, someone's whose crazy visions come true. The sisters and the tensions and differences between them is a story that has been told many times before, but although the plot is not original the well presented setting give the play its magic.

Eilberg is actually very funny as the island's idiot and is plays a very important role in the play as someone the other characters can confide in. Turner has perhaps written herself the most fascinating and lovable character, Odhran has never left the island bound their by one of her brother's prophecies. She is a creature of the island, without her sister's education but with a stronger sense of where she comes from.

The homely croft house is lovingly recreated with its thick stone walls alluded to with simple but sturdy set. The music is what really brings the action alive with a live band and cast providing the beautiful vocals. The haunting nature of Gaelic when sung well should never be underestimated. it seems to transport you back in time and even when you are expecting it it can still send a little shiver down your spine.

A lovingly told story of crofters that creates a magical island on stage with its strange stories, entertaining characters and most of all wonderful Gaelic songs.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin