Cape Wrath is an intimate one man show. It consists of performer Alex Kelly sharing with us the story of his grandfather's solitary 'jaunt' to Cape Wrath - the most Northern point of Scotland - by public transport and Alex's own experience of the same journey, made as an act of remembrance after his grandfather's funeral. The intimacy derives not only from the fact that Cape Wrath takes place on a small bus. It derives equally from the fact that Alex's storytelling technique is very personal, very confiding. This, combined with the close observation of detail he recounts, gives the show the charmingly personal feel of a diary reading.
In fact, at times it almost is a diary reading: since Alex's grandfather wrote letters to his wife detailing his trip, we are treated to a visceral insight into his experience. In the letter with which Alex opens the show, we learn details about the bus his grandfather boarded, the age and appearance of the other passengers, their brief conversations - details, in fact, that sound like banalities, but in fact make for very engaging listening. I particularly enjoyed the frequent description of meals - of the apricots, the wholemeal loaves, the marmalade. Alex's grandfather, it becomes apparent, liked to finish his picnics with two squares of dark chocolate. At the precise point in an hour-long show in which the audience lags a little, Alex asked, 'Would anyone else like two squares of dark chocolate?' A bar was squared and handed around. It was sweet in both senses.
There are also moments of humour which, like everything about this show, are very gentle. With his jokes about his emergency purchased, ill fitting weatherproof trousers, his turn-ups and his rain-related traumas, Alex is definitely a Howard Moon to other shows' Vince Noir. He's touchingly middle aged - and at times, remarks about the weather really do slip over into banality. This is not to say that he did not occasionally make me laugh - or chuckle, at least - out loud. His amused observation of the sheer unlikeliness of Scottish place names such as 'Rubh 'an t-socouch chtais' and, later, his short riff about the gesture made by drivers to hitchhikers, both got the bus gently wobbling with laughter.
Given that the show takes place in a bus, Alex's movement is minimal. It is, however, also very well judged. Beginning in the passenger section with us, Alex then moves to the front passenger seat, then the driver's seat - with each position complementing the point at which he's at in the narrative. He also occasionally looks outside as he describes the landscape through which we imagine the bus is passing and even does a few voices. Such small touches keep the show lively.
Indeed, rather than restrictive or gimmicky, the bus setting is perfect. The show ends with the least awkward audience participation I've ever experienced: where so often a performer's attempt to involve the audience feels forced, thanks to the intimacy of the bus, it feels very natural. While moments of the show's nostalgic tone are touchingly sad - it is, ultimately, a nostalgic bus trip up memory lane - everyone files off the bus smiling.