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Islander review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘magical new folk musical’

Kirsty Findlay and Bethany Tennick in Islander. Photo: Jazzy Earl
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Folklore and myth are brought dizzyingly up to date in Finn Anderson and Stewart Melton’s live-layered musical, using just two voices and loop pedals. Although a new piece of work, it feels timeless, like an archetype or folk tale.

Eilidh is a lonely girl on a remote Scottish island. She has to deal with distance learning and her ailing gran. The islanders are preparing for a referendum on whether to abandon the place altogether as resources dwindle and the people age.

But in the middle of all this normality, a strange girl turns up on a beach. The everyday crashes up against the mythic: Eilidh doesn’t believe the stranger when she says where she’s from. Surely that’s only a story, a folk tale.

Bethany Tennick and Kirsty Findlay conjure Finn Anderson’s swirling, eddying music from voices and pedals. Live looping is popular, but this instance of it so stunning because of the skill and precision with which Tennick and Findlay paint their layers. There isn’t a fluffed note or mis-pressed button.

They give life to Eilidh and the stranger, as well as the whole island community. With those pedals, too, they create a world of sounds. It’s not just music: there’s wind and whale breath, radio jingles, storms of garbled conversation in a town hall meeting.

Whether it’s a bare melody line, or the collision of several, Anderson’s folk-inspired music always stuns.

Spry direction from Amy Draper keeps the piece flowing, and while Melton’s story doesn’t shrink from the hard responsibilities of life, it dusts them with a bit of pure magic, too.


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Magical new folk musical created from two voices and loop pedals