On a train heading south, the eyes of a tired man meet those of a woman weeping, if only for a moment. Nothing more than a look links these travellers, though over the course of the next hour, performers Jim Harbourne and Kirsty Ella McIntyre will convince otherwise. Telling these two stories mainly through monologues, The Myth of the Singular Moment explores the intricate thought processes behind life altering decisions, with the help of live musical interludes and simple puppetry.
There is effortless elegance in Harbourne’s writing, a sense of hope contrasting the dark reality of the character’s lives.
The two performers are totally captivating as storytellers, pulling off the impressive feat of making it seem like this is the first time they have spoken their words. There is effortless elegance in Harbourne’s writing, a sense of hope contrasting the dark reality of the character’s lives. Beautifully performed original music fills the breaks in the story, with a refrain reminiscent of Jose Gonzalez’s Heartbeats, and poetic lyricism about the life of a whale. Each actor shows off their skills with an array of wonderfully unique instruments, and the harmonies in the vocals are impressive. Pitched somewhere between Flogging Molly performing a ballad and Mumford and Sons without so much banjo, the folk-country music compliments the tone perfectly.
The piece holds together wonderfully, flowing elegantly rather than allowing the songs to interrupt the story, but there are a few details holding the performance back from perfection. When it is necessary for dialogue to replace narration in the scenes, the slickness in switching between these two methods of delivery is a little jarring. There might be a better way to realise such a situation, rather than McIntyre alternating between the barely distinct personas of storyteller, protagonist, and side character, as happens now and then. The aid of puppetry is a whimsical touch, but feels like a wasted opportunity to really impress.
It is halfway through the performance before the titular idea is raised, a thought that is much better explained in the show than you might think from glimpsing a flyer. It is the idea that the same moment may take place in billions of different universes, and though that moment may play out the same way in almost all of them, in one universe the inexplicable will happen. A somewhat late introduction into the plot, the device’s arrival sort of renders the first half of the show as set-up. It could maybe have been layered through the opening storytelling a little more, to create a fateful crescendo of sorts when finally openly discussed.
When the idea does begin to blossom, Harbourne capitalises on the magic inherent in such metaphors. The music swells, the character arcs pirouette and actors beam, inviting us to join them in the culminating joy of the piece. As a result, it is difficult to leave Summerhall’s Demonstration Room feeling anything other than heart-warmed.