Fuaigh – Interweaving

Fuaigh – Interweaving is a collaborative project about belonging, language loss and home. The premise is that we have been invited to a ceilidh by two central figures: playwright, poet and writer, Rona MacDonald, and Scottish Gaelic singer, Gillebride MacMillan. The spirit of this ceilidh is one of warm fires and yarns; the word is meant in its original sense as a gathering where traditional Scottish dancing can take place, not in its contemporary usage which has come to mean the dance alone. The pair take turns in telling stories of South Uist, their shared home, and converse about Hebridean life. Through the course of their interactions with one another and with the audience they think about what it means to be preservers of tradition and the Gaelic language, and what it might mean to lose this. A sentimental look at people and place with plenty of audience inclusion (expect dancing, whisky and hand-holding), Fuaigh – Interweaving is sure to find fans in those interested in Gaelic culture.

It will, at the very least, have you thinking about your own memories of home, and what it would mean to you to have it drift away.

Rona and Gillebride are friendly performers, each bringing their own personality to the show. Rona is an engaging storyteller, especially in the more formal set piece stories, and Gillebride is a truly mesmerising singer. Indeed, songs makes up some of Fuaigh’s most exciting passages; it is here that we get the strongest sense of South Uist as a place. We are given items of surprising information too – Gillebride, for instance, tells us that Gaelic spellings of names were forbidden by law to be used on official documents and birth certificates (his own reads Gilbert) for a long time. Rona backs this up with an anecdote about forcing a Glasgow registrar to include the accents of her daughter’s name by refusing to leave the building for three hours.

These moments are interesting, and bring to attention important subjects in an age where Hebridean culture has been so thoroughly marginalised. Yet elsewhere the project is dripping in too much sentimentalism and nostalgia to be effective. The dialogue between Rona and Gillebride is often forced, too obvious and doesn’t feel genuine. At its worst, this has the – no doubt unintentional – side-effect of patronising the audience. But this is saved by the welcoming atmosphere of the piece as a whole, which is created with the help of dancing and whisky.

While occasionally verging on the condescending and the overly pastoral, Fuaigh – Interweaving is nonetheless a worthwhile project. It will, at the very least, have you thinking about your own memories of home, and what it would mean to you to have it drift away.

Reviews by Sam Fulton

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Using song, story, imagery and dance, Fuaigh – Interweaving looks at the consequences of losing words, land and language and being forced to the edge. Fuaigh starts at a ceilidh on the island of South Uist, leaves for the big city of Glasgow and comes home again; a celebration of the spirit of belonging, leaving and returning. Directed by triple Fringe First-winner John Binnie, written and performed by Rona MacDonald, with music and performance by Mòd Gold Medallist Gillebride MacMillan and visuals by Judith Parrott. Originally commissioned as part of National Theatre of Scotland’s Home Away 2016.