In the basement of Summerhall is a small desolate island off the Scottish Hebrides. Through large projections of a calm sea, desolate and abandoned homes, and a littering of artefacts placed between two rooms, the audience amble through the space piecing together what little is suggested of this mysterious place.
Part installation, part performance, its intention it to encourage free movement around the space, sometimes following the Wardrop brothers, Jamie and Lewis’, calming voices or instrument playing – perfect for storytelling in this dark and ethereal space.
The Wardrops explain that with the intention of reviving the fishing industry, Viscount Leverhulme purchased the Isle of Lewis in 1918. After failing to do so, he purchased the village of Obbe which, up until his death, he struggled to turn into a significant port. The island’s inhabitants slowly emigrated to where work was, leaving their houses abandoned and open to the elements. Artefacts from this time were collected and documented by the Wardrop brothers upon visiting the island, and it is these which inspire The Dwelling Place.
There’s a lot to take in from the pockets of information given out in various points of the performance and for a piece that encourages free roaming and wandering thought, it is often hard to keep up with the Wardrops’ narrative and direction. The acoustics in the room leave little for wandering minds, and if or when your interest is directed elsewhere, the narrative is crucially lost. Perhaps this is an intentional decision made by its creators, due to the nature of the piece, but key information about the place is held within tiny moments in the performance which are not always caught by its wandering crowd.
The brothers are without a doubt a talented duo – mixing lighting, sound and visuals in real time with a few computers, an iPad and iPhone. They respond to the space with intelligence and sensitivity. Elements of live music; storytelling in a pub with projected crackling fires, and raging storms ignite a brilliant interactive and immersive experience that traditional theatre can never achieve.
The Dwelling Place is an exciting and promising hybrid of installation and theatre, exploring innovative ways to tell small stories in big ways.
The Dwelling Place is playing Summerhall until August 19.