5-30 Aug, (not 10th, 17th, 24th) 1140 – 1320 @ Assembly George Street
Generally considered one of the finest Scottish novels of all time, and for many, the strongest of the “Scots Quair” Trilogy, Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song follows the life of Chris Guthrie, a young woman living in a small farm in rural Aberdeenshire. Adapted for the stage by Alastair Cording, and directed by Kenny Ireland, the play paints a picture of the harshness and beauty of rural life in north east Scotland in the early 20th Century, the impact of the First World War on the young men who went to war, and the families they left behind.
Duality is the focus: Chris remains on the land tied to her family or lets her education take her elsewhere, her child-woman status, her transition from daughter to mother. The rural community is measured in cycles and rituals which bring joy but also pain and loss: births, marriages and deaths, the harvest, New Year. These are reflected in the land: the changing of the seasons, the harshness of winter, the power of nature to inspire but also to damage. The onset of war brings finality and a sense of loss for both the community and the country.
The set is contemporary and simple: a wooden floor against a backdrop of digitally projected images to reflect changing seasons, the church, the sea. The warm lighting evokes the richness of the landscape, also reflected in Gibbon’s prose, albeit at a slower pace in the book.
Understandably, the early scenes have to cover a lot of events so the initial pace may seem rushed, however this settles down into a gentler rhythm. The lively ensemble piece uses inventive representations of dance and movement to render scenes of workers ploughing the field, motor car versus horse, Chris’s wedding to Ewan Tavendale. The use of Scots language, songs and live music enrich the experience. The direction brings very strong performances from a top quality cast and Hannah Donaldson shines as Chris, exuding vitality and strength.
The play ends with the observation that, “nothing is true but change,” as the community laments the ravages of war, and the loss of “the last of the peasants, the last of the old Scots folk” – in the stark recognition that neither Chris Guthrie nor her community shall ever be the same again.
Well worth seeing