Turntable / Edinburgh

Michael John McCarthy’s Turntable is a project that has been touring Scotland for four years now, with the simple premise that music can help total strangers open up to one another. McCarthy, who is originally from Ireland but has lived in Glasgow since the age of 21, formed a deep friendship upon moving to the UK with his great aunt Kathleen. Kathleen had also emigrated when she was 21, starting a new life in London that led to adventures across the world. The catalyst for this relationship bridging generations and deeply-held beliefs was music; the pair bonded over Kathleen’s record collection which allowed them to talk candidly about difficult topics that otherwise they felt they could not broach. Inspired, McCarthy decided to tour Kathleen’s record case around Scotland to see if he could evoke similar responses in strangers.

Turntable is a beautiful project, and by the end of the hour McCarthy manages to create a real sense of generosity and community in his Edinburgh audience.

Taking place in the brightly lit court of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the performance – or perhaps workshop would be a more accurate label – consists of McCarthy telling stories about his life and the lives of other people he has met along the way, structured by a carefully curated soundtrack. McCarthy introduces a track and a theme, he cues it up on the record player and we listen to the first thirty or so seconds before it fades down to a background murmur allowing McCarthy to complete the anecdote. The only rule is that each tale can only last as long as the music it is triggered by. This format works well, and could make up a show by itself. McCarthy is shy, kind and unassuming, and speaks with clearly genuine feeling about the figures he has connected with through music. An immediately likeable man, he gently guides his audience through discussions of identity, belonging, fear and family, to list but four of his subjects.

At the heart of Turntable is the concept of sharing. At various points through the hour, McCarthy will ask someone from the audience to select a track to play from his record collection. With this whirring in the background, he requests that the audience turn to those around them and start speaking. Conversations range from your favourite songs to the music from your childhood, anything and everything about music. I saw Turntable alone and was fortunate enough to be sitting next to another unaccompanied show-goer; we quickly developed a mutual trust and began talking about things two people previously unknown to each other would not have occasion to speak about in another setting. McCarthy’s faith in the power of sharing through music was in this case justified.

Special guests make up the final segment of the show – on the 16th we had David Greig, a Scottish playwright and the artistic director of Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre. McCarthy is a good interviewer and listener, and bringing in another voice ensures engagement throughout the session. Greig is funny and articulate, with some quality anecdotes on Edinburgh’s music scene in the ’80s.

Turntable is a beautiful project, and by the end of the hour McCarthy manages to create a real sense of generosity and community in his Edinburgh audience.

Reviews by Sam Fulton

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Since you’re here…

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Turntable started when MJ McCarthy and his Great Aunt Kathleen – 55 years his senior – connected over a stack of vinyl. Since then the Turntable team have toured her record case around Scotland, inviting listeners of all ages to investigate its contents whilst reflecting on the importance of music in their lives. At this year’s Fringe, the Turntable invitation is extended to the people of Edinburgh. Stories and memories will be gathered at workshops throughout the city. These encounters will inform a series of performance events featuring special guests and a soundtrack chosen by you. madeinscotlandshowcase.com

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