BEAUTY AND FORTITUDE BETWEEN A WARM WELCOME AND A FOND FAREWELL
Written and directed by Jacqueline Coats
Single Malt Collective
at Various venues - on tour, New Zealand wide
From 4 Nov 2012 to 25 Nov 2012
Reviewed by Kirsty van Rijk, 9 Nov 2012
Home is short, sentimental, sweet, and familiar… and I mean all of this in the most positive sense.
Short: Any greater length would have belaboured the simplicity of the story: a Scots immigrant couple, Maggie and Johnnie, meeting, courting, marrying and being separated by the First World War. Opening at the end of a concert for the Caledonian Society, and a sing-along, it then segues between years, following the couple's lives, marking the local and global events and the effect they have on the pair. This is all punctuated by the songs the migrants brought with them, and learned here.
Sentimental: Home ticks the right boxes, but not too many; here it is sweet sentiment, real sentiment. The sing-along Scots tunes well known to the audience add to the ‘concert' motif, and engage the audience effectively.
As Maggie, Rowena Simpson evokes the calm, strong reserve of kind-but-stern Scots grannies many New Zealanders will remember. Johnnie (Stuart Coats) brings an edge of enthusiasm and verve to his character that recalls the ‘young Turk' of many a war story.
Sweet: This has to be Simpson's clear bell like voice and excellent diction. Like a bellbird she sings to the rafters but brings an intensity of emotion to her songs that the restrained Maggie could never voice. Of particular note must be the harmonies between Simpson and Coats when Coats is offstage – it is difficult to manage harmony without direct visual with your partner. Coats sings with gusto and is particularly strong on the songs that require his energy.
More than a nod to pianist and ‘Skinny-malinky' Douglas Mews, who plays beautifully.
Further development of Maggie would be welcome, perhaps in dialogue as most of the story is told through the epistolary device of letters, diaries and newspaper reports. To see her feistiness in her argument over politics with Johnnie would be more engaging than hearing his report of it.
A spare set, the visual device of the clothes lines probably speaks more to function than visual effect, with the cast heading off to their next venue daily, performing in 12 towns before the 26th. The stalwart migrant attitude will be required!
Familiar: We all know this story; it is the story of our grandfathers, the stories we've been raised on and remember every ANZAC Day. For me, my grandfather and great uncle; for my companion, her grandfather. The woman sitting next to us recalled her father and grandfather. Just as coming home is returning to the familiar, the play reacquaints us with cultural history we all know, that we feel safe and comfortable with, and comforted by.
A warm welcome and a fond farewell, what more could I want but to enjoy a little Auld Lang Syne?
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See also reviews by:
Garth Wilshere (Capital Times);