Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
The sound of birdsong floats about the auditorium as Karine Polwart comes on stage to perform her meditation on the land, sea and air that surrounds her in Fala, the village just outside Edinburgh she calls home. It's a sound that soothes, possibly because, as Polwart talks of the 2,400 pink-footed geese that fly from Greenland to Fala every winter, it's clear it is the voices of the many. Skyborne socialism, Polwart calls it.
The geese become a leaping off point for a show that fuses songs and stories to create a beautiful evocation of the need for community in an increasingly fractured world. This is the case whether Polwart talks us through her complicated pregnancy a decade ago and the heroic support she received, or an unlikely but apt evocation of football manager Alex Ferguson's philosophy of teamwork. There are too the everyday tragedies of those whose lives were cruelly cut short, like real life couple Roberta and Will, whose story gives the show its narrative heart.
Wils Wilson's production, first seen in 2016 as part of Edinburgh International Festival, allows Polwart space to give full vent to both her inner and outer landscapes. While largely a celebration of life through words, music and Pippa Murphy's powerful soundscape, there is disaffection too. Without mentioning them by name, this is aimed at the politicians who would wilfully damage the landscape or else dismantle vital health services. There is no soapbox preaching here, however. Rather, Polwart delivers this gently, firmly and with the same sense of calm that fires the songs she accompanies herself on with guitar, harmonium and electronics. The result is a quietly poetic piece of protest theatre that blossoms into a magical musical garden of earthly delights, and which sees Polwart soar.