Big Sky productions have returned to the festival with this distinctively Scottish storytelling performance for families. A large screen lights up the auditorium with the beautifully illustrated story of ‘a young laddie called Neil’ and his life in the highlands with his grandmother and some animal friends. Accompanying the images is a seven strong orchestra that creates themes and arrangements for the story while a narrator, energetically performed by Gerda Stevenson, retells the story in Scots. Whilst the language is decisively rooted in old Scottish phrases and slang, it is always comprehensible thanks to the clarity of the narrator and the images and music that play alongside it. It’s a colourful and very rewarding performance and a great way for children to sit and listen to a story.
The story itself gets a little eerie at times as the young Neil gets lost in the woods and meets a terrifying creature called the Urisk. Although perhaps a little too scary for the very young, the rest of the children in the auditorium appeared to be entirely engrossed, even if they were peeking through their fingers. However, there’s lots of humour as well and I was impressed by how much one instrument can make children laugh so much. Whenever the funnier characters appear on the screen they are given their own theme to play them along, much to the delight of the youngsters.
The musicians performed to a very high standard; with a piano, a cello, an accordion, a harp, flute, violin, bagpipes and percussion all used it’s an agreeably substantial arrangement and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of children have decided to take up an instrument after seeing this show. As the tale comes to an end, Stevenson invites children down from the audience onto the stage to sing and dance to some songs inspired by the story. Overall, this is an old school, traditional type of show that is worth ‘doukin and joukin’ through the rest of the festival to find.