By Jen McGregor
On paper, A Tapestry of Many Threads sounds like an exciting cross-platform piece – “a collaboration of music, poetry, film, photography and tapestry”, forming part of the Dovecot Studios’ centenary celebrations.
In reality, for everyone behind the front row it’s just a song cycle in a very pretty space, to be listened to while staring at the back of someone’s head. Thanks to a shockingly cavalier attitude towards sightlines – all the more infuriating in a gallery space – the film, photography, tapestry projections and indeed the musicians were not visible most of the time. This reviewer, being slightly below average height, was too short to catch more than occasional glimpses, meaning that most of the piece was lost.
When there’s no raised stage area, raked seating helps. When there’s no raked seating, there should be a raised stage. If a venue can’t accommodate either of these configurations, creative solutions are called for – perform in thrust or in the round, do promenade, space seats out. If it’s absolutely impossible to do any of these, it falls to the director to make sure that the performers are visible. Unfortunately, since the two singers spent much of their time seated, they weren’t. If for some reason the production cannot take the limitations of the space into consideration, it might be time to reconsider calling it ‘site-specific’. It would also be courteous to offer affected seats at a reduced price since they have a restricted view, especially as this is one of the pricier Fringe shows at £15 a head.
The score was intermittently lovely, but not sufficient to hold the attention without visual backup. The performers acquitted themselves very well, particularly the singers Andrew McTaggart and Beth Mackay. They are to be commended for the valiant fight they put up against a banal, directionless libretto which meandered from one platitude to the next without ever offering an opportunity to build character or establish any connection with each other. Had this piece been a straightforward song cycle it might have been less of a problem, but since the songs were strung together with dialogue (albeit dialogue which consisted of CBeebies-worthy lines about tapestry telling stories) there was an expectation of some kind of arc.
Dovecot Studios is a beautiful space. It deserved better than this, and at £15 a ticket, so did the audience.
A Tapestry of Many Threads is on until 15 August at Dovecot Studios (19.30) 1hr.