Writer: Elspeth Turner
Music: Murdo Turner, Tim du Feu
Director: Emily Reutlinger
Reviewer: Val Baskott
The Public Reviews Rating:
Elspeth Turner has chosen an ancient tale for her first play, The Idiot at the Wall directed by Emily Reutlinger. The story of two sisters, one man, love, jealousy and murder is a tale well known in the Scottish folk tradition and a good starting point. Turner has set her strong narrative on an isolated isle somewhere in the Hebrides in the 1940s. Odhran (Turner) has stayed on the island with her brothers, God-fearing John and Uistean the ‘Idiot’ and seer, while Sorcha has been educated in London. Sorcha has come back with the aristocratic Rathbone (Tim Barrow) who has an interest in the tales and songs of the islanders. Family fears, class tensions and love conflicts are revealed in a complex web of sub-plots and themes, which culminate in foreseen tragedy.
The set itself is solidly sparse, in keeping with the harshness of the island setting. Turner excels in creating Odhran as a warm, mature and intelligent woman happily rooted in her island life until her security is challenged by her developing love for Rathbone. Barrow sensitively develops his character from the stereotype to reveal a caring man but one who can’t shake off the need to do the right thing even when he knows he has been manipulated into it. Supporting roles are well acted.
The action could benefit from tighter direction, at times there is just too much moving about of people and set, but the Gaelic music is integral to the play and a delight to the ear.
Runs until August 25Edinburgh Fringe: The Idiot at the Wall - Bedlam Theatre,