A breath of fresh air from a small but perfectly formed production

PRAISE is due to Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director of the Pitlochry Festival Theater, and her team for their new thinking on the return of live theater.

Having played a dynamic role in sustaining Scottish Theater through almost 16 pandemic months (most notably through Sound Stage, the audio drama initiative he created alongside the Royal Lyceum Theater, Edinburgh and Naked Productions), Pitlochry Festival Theater (PFT) brings us back to live theater in a shiny new outdoor auditorium.

Newman commissioned the construction of a miniature wooden amphitheater in the middle of the magnificent Explorer’s Garden which adjoins the PFT building. When Scottish weather sets in (as it did, gloriously, for last weekend’s premiere of David Greig’s new play, Adventures With The Painted People), this is the perfect place to present small-scale theatrical productions.

It is fitting that this auditorium, which is inspired by the theaters of ancient Greece, begins its life with Greig’s well-structured two-act play, which takes place around 2000 years ago.

Originally presented as an audio drama (on BBC Radio 3 in June last year), this double-textbook focuses on the relationship between Eithne (a Picte witch who freelances for the “people Salmon ”Caledonian from Kenmore, at the northern tip of Loch Tay) and Lucius (a captured Roman soldier).

Lucius is tied up in a known, unpretentious place like the House of the Dead. In addition, Eithne assures him, he is surrounded by curses that will prevent him from escaping with metaphysical threats.

The purpose of the Roman’s capture, following a battle in which the Caledonian warriors were all but wiped out, is to serve as a human shield in Eithne’s planned peace talks with the local Roman governor. The problem is, she hasn’t quite communicated her plan to the people of the Caledonian tribes. They think Lucius must be a sacrifice in their next heavenly ritual.

THE play revolves around the development of the relationship between Eithne (a woman of absolute certainty in her witchcraft powers) and Lucius (an aspiring poet who sees himself more as a state official than a soldier).

The witch demands that Lucius teach her what it is to be Roman, but ends up teaching her at least as much about the pagan traditions of the Picts and Caledonian tribes.

This conversation, typically of Greig, oscillates between the comical, the poetic and the genuinely touching. The playwright’s daring to reinvent a historic moment is reminiscent of the work of English playwright Howard Barker and, despite the modest simplicity of the amphitheater’s small stage, it offers the audience a moment of breathtaking surprise. in the short second act.

This little design twist is particularly unexpected given the minimalist design of Newman’s production, which combines a modern dress with a nod to Greig’s period (presumably through everything that happened in the custody department). – PFT dress).

Ben Occhipinti’s sound and music lend themselves generously to the room, as does Jeanine Byrne’s lighting design, which must take into account the varying qualities of the natural light that illuminates the stage.

The production (which lasts about two hours, including intermission) is charming and compelling. It has as much to do with Kirsty Stuart’s performance (who is absolutely captivating as a richly expressive and saucy Eithne) as it does with Greig’s text. Nicholas Karimi’s Lucius is, rightly, in awe of his captor, but visibly tense in the character’s most emotional moments.

The play is a modest drama with big ideas. I can’t help but think, however, that Greig sold it short by wrapping it in a somewhat predictable blanket of romance.

Until July 4th. For more details visit: pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com

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