An extraordinary night of theatre took place in Brae as part of the Ignition project, designed to focus attention on our relationship with our cars.
The performance last night was thought-provoking – a magical mystery tour that was emotional, edgy and something completely different – with various strands and unexpected transitions but all connected with vehicles.
It started at the Brae Hall, illuminated with unearthly blue lights.
Central to the experience was the figure of the White Wife, a haunting presence who greeted the audience as they came in. She sat at a desk on the Brae Hall stage and asked: “Have you ever sold a car?”
“Have you lost your patience in a car park?”
“Have you ever not known what a road sign means?”
She read out comments that the audience had been invited to write in a book, noting where they were from and where they would like to go. To the moon to see the earth, to Glasgow to see their family, and so on. And her experiences of travelling around Shetland over the last six months – “I jumped on a henny bus”, “my journey ended in a living room with tea and shortbread”.
The audience were issued with numbers and allocated to strangers’ cars for a literal and metaphorical journey. Quickly introducing themselves, they were whisked off to the car park in the Delting Boating Club. What to expect? Car radios were tuned to listen to a soundtrack and, still sitting in the cars, the audience watched as an old Volvo was lit up.
How many people can you get into an old car? Eight, nine, ten, possibly, athletic young men slithered out of doors and windows with animal grace, to perform parkour moves. They somersaulted and rolled over the car, did handstands on it, walked over it on their hands, moving with balletic grace. But there are many different forms of movement.
Young supple people were contrasted with older folk who appeared, white clad, doing ballroom dances to the soundtrack of reminiscences from Wastview care centre. One who liked walking in the moonlight, another who went out at night to see their sheep, another who recalled registration numbers of their old cars, one of which had no reverse gear . . Then it was off to Sullom Hall car park and into various vehicles – a bus, a camper van, an apparently “crashed” car, one inviting-looking one with fairy lights and the “knitted” car, the one covered with knitted panels done by members of the public – for their own personal theatre performance, all very different. One symbolised survival after an apocalyptic event, another a “teenage” car with a Dolly Parton soundtrack, another illustrating a bid for freedom.
“Sit back and enjoy the journey,” was the instruction from one member of the National Theatre of Scotland, who devised the event with Shetland Arts. It should not be a scary experience, no-one was asked to stand in the cold or to do anything except absorb impressions.
The night had a reassuring end with a return to Brae Hall where teas and homebakes were laid out and music created as part of the project – songs about buses and landscape – was played. The whole experience was “amazing”, according to one of the audience.
It is on again at Brae tonight and tomorrow, at Bigton on Tuesday and Wednesday and in Yell next Friday. All “journeys” start at 7pm