Intimate performance exploring grief through storytelling and song

Julia Taudevin's Move~Gluasad, a multi-lingual storytelling piece about disconnection across time and space, premiered less than 48 hours after the UK became a little less connected to the world. The cast of five women interweave connected stories about loss, family, and kinship with diverse forms of singing such as Swahili lullabies, Canntaireachd, and Gaelic psalm-singing, just to name a few. Emotion is communicated as much through song as through words.

The most striking thing about the performance is the use of space, lighting, and sound. Performed in the round, it begins with glowing orbs being unveiled to light the faces of the cast in a warm glow. For most of the performance the light remains low to keep the space dark and intimate. Whenever one or two of the cast are on the stage, the rest of the cast are positioned around the space, so that it feels as though the whole room is singing, breathing and signing as the stories are told.

In spite of this ghostly yet cosy atmosphere, the stories never drift away into purely holistic musings. There are flecks of wit sprinkled throughout that ground it (e.g. when a bag for life carrying ashes becomes a 'bag for death'). In a piece which focuses heavily on grief, trauma and migration, there are surprising and uplifting moments of joy, both in the narrative and in the dramaturgy when the cast comes together to sing.

Between the diverse characters, who never interact with each other and all have their stories told in the third person, the range of reactions to grief is explored across generations and cultures, each with their own way of processing their experiences. The performances communicate a sense of being constantly overwhelmed by their surroundings, their personal history, the history of their roots. They are all equally impactful, and all equally inescapable.

There are some teething troubles: a wardrobe malfunction here, a hesitant line there, but they never detract from the intense ambience. In some ways, Move~Gluasad is like The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil combined with a witches' séance. It's one of those rare shows that can communicate a specific emotion purely through its theatricality, and the result is, indeed, deeply moving.

Reviewed at Platform, as part of Celtic Connections.

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