… And what a show they put on

A THRONG of all ages, from pre-school to pensioners, filled the Sound Hall last Wednesday for Grassroots Theatre Company’s concluding show of their recent Shetland visit.

The concert opened with a performance of African song and dance by some of the local children, resplendent in head dresses and African garb, who had taken part in Grassroots school workshops. The youngsters’ enthusiasm and obvious glee was heart-warming, and left the audience beaming too. Reports from schools who hosted workshops expressed the popularity of Grassroots’ educational work, which was confirmed through the gusto exhibited by the children during their recital.

Aestaewast, Shetland’s own drumming troupe, were next to take to the floor, leading the audience on a global jaunt of drums, percussion, dance and song. Aestaewast are continuously developing as a group and their passion and exuberance always proves popular. Their understanding of a diverse range of rhythmic forms and the authentic execution made for an exceptionally engaging performance.

Throughout the subsequent short break discussion centred on how impressed people were with Grassroots; during their 10-day visit they built up a following of fans and aficionados, and many people at this final concert had already attended Grassroots’ performances and workshops over the previous days. And when they burst onto the floor straight into a spirited display of percussion, singing and dancing I saw why.

I was immensely impressed by the boundless energy and ardour they exuded, and the audience engagement they encouraged from the offset. For a group of only five, they formidably filled the floor, both physically and musically, with a variety of percussive pulses, chants and whistles to accompany their drama and dance routines.

The dynamic performance was interjected with inspiring passages of dialogue outlining the political and humanitarian predicament of their homeland, and offering optimistic philosophies on how to overcome adversity.

Before concluding the evening the Grassroots company invited the earlier performers to join in a rousing rhythmic collaboration, and with the crowd chanting and clapping along, it was impossible to delineate between performer and audience.

Bryan Peterson


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