The Selkie and the River God

This play explores the enduring Celtic mythology of Selkies – mythical seal-like creatures who, once ashore, can shed their skin, appear as beautiful women and have their hearts won by mortal men if their seal furs are captured.

The biggest problem with this production is pacing. Many of the scenes are very short and the set changes in some places take almost as long.

The story plays out as realism and I was wondering when the magical realism would begin. We begin with a daughter returning home to the Hebridean island on which this story is set and a fair amount of exposition follows as her mama relates the story of their family, the Macfies, who have ancestral connections with Selkies and faeries. We see the trials of their ancestor, Sheemah, who struggles to live astride two worlds.

The script by Nicole Watson and Maureen Watson has enough in it to warrant further development. There are some moments – Sheemah’s meeting of the River God for instance – that are narrated to us through voiceover, denying us the opportunity to see on stage the most important moment of action in the world of this play. In contrast, a lot of time is spent showing us how Sheemah is ostracised by the village. If we had fewer of the early parts of Sheemah’s story and more of the inevitable choices she makes later on, we would be better able to connect with the character and her struggles.

The biggest problem with this production is pacing. Many of the scenes are very short and the set changes in some places take almost as long. This breaks the spell for us, taking us out of the world and dissolving the tension that builds towards the climax of the play. While there is some dance and singing, the show settles into a rhythm that needs to be broken up more.

The opening device – that of retelling the mythology – does not return at the conclusion of the play. This means we are not given a reason as to why the story is unfolding now; it seems, other than to provide exposition, that there is no reason for the characters in the beginning of the play. There’s a missed opportunity here, I think, to explore what this ancestral heritage means.

While this play doesn’t deliver on its promise, the mythology is appealing and I enjoyed the exploration of the conflict between the two worlds.

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Performances

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The Blurb

Passion, conflict, love and betrayal. Join Sheemah on a journey of self-discovery as she explores her place not only in the world of man, but also in the world of Celtic myth and folklore. Set on the Hebridean island of Colonsay, ancestral home of the Clans Macfie and MacNiel, the Selkie and the River God tells a story of temptation, betrayal and power. As a descendant of both Selkie and Faerie Folk, Sheemah is torn between two worlds, that which she knows and that which she is drawn towards…

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