Karine Polwart, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Karine Polwart

‘home is where we start from’ observes the child psychologist Donald Woods Winnicott, and it was on her own front door step that Karine Polwart began her Traverse performance.

Admitting that this would be somewhat different from what her regular audiences might expect, Polwart took this Traverse one on a journey that was both particular and universal in its scope.

Living around Fala, Polwart led us out by Salter’s Road and onto Fala Muir, introducing its wildlife as she went, and linking her song repertoire to the location.

‘The Lark in the Clear Air’ and some discussion of its origins led on to Polwart’s delightful rendition of part of Robert Burns’ ‘Westlin Winds’, one of his earliest verses, contrasting with a Donovan number and equally with Violet Jacob’s ‘The Wild Geese’, each of these interspersing Polwart’s delightful descriptions of the avian visitors to Fala Muir, from skylarks to pink-footed geese.

The second half proved somewhat different in tone and theme, Polwart now meditating on the miracle of birth and the transitory nature of all existence. In less skilled hands it might have crumbled into mawkishness, but here Polwart saves some of the best till last, not only in the section of the balled ‘The Death of Queen Jane’ that she performs, but also in her tale of helping to form Denny High School girls football team, Alex Fergusson and the flying techniques of geese, with which Polwart brings us safely home and ends her performance.

To merely award three starts may seem a tad mean, given the shape and scope Polwart’s storytelling, reminiscent to this reviewer of the late Alastair Cook’s radio broadcasts and her considerable musical range and terms of reference, but one senses that she is developing a rather different performance persona which in time may well reward the effort so clearly put in thus far. One looks forward very much to what will emerge.