Review: 22 Mays, Pitlochry Festival Theatre
3.0Overall Score

Some people stay with you forever, don’t they? Those great loves of your life, those great powers. A part of you will always be with them, and a part of them will always be with you – it’s an eternal bond and a comfort. Written by Martin McCormick and directed by Elizabeth Newman, 22 Mays explores loneliness, childhood and longing as we hear from one man’s inexplicable devotion to a love he hasn’t seen in 22 Mays.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) continue their four-month marathon of Scottish premieres celebrating artists, audiences and communities within the Tayside landscape. It’s worth noting that this project is designed as a ‘love-letter to Scotland’ and celebrates authentic expression and history whilst provoking debates and conversations, establishing what stories we should be telling, and questioning what stories need to be told in the future.

Illustration by Mirren Wilson, inspired by 22 Mays.

In 22 Mays, a man returns to an ‘enchanted forest,’ where he hopes to be reunited with his love, after their youthful agreement decades ago. “If you ever feel lonely, really, really, really lonely, you said, we’d make our way back here.” Believing in the magic of the forest, the idea was that they’d both know and feel when the time was right and then they would urgently return to one another with blind faith. Perplexing and romantic as it may seem, the man now comes out of sheer desperation and pain, with only a hint of hope.

This piece is extremely poignant and resonant, particularly at this time – many of us have been in isolation, simultaneously longing for our loved ones and needing them more than ever. Normality feels like a lifetime ago and it’s very easy to lose sight of what’s important. What’s great about McCormick’s writing is that it places nature and nostalgia as the great human companions in times of strife.

Richard Standing is emotive, dreamy and engaging in his delivery, which is the significant strength in this piece. With some thrilling pacing and colourful expression, he carries you on an energetic journey so that we really see and feel each moment in all its heightened emotion, glory and immediacy.

Within the filmography, there’s a lovely searching quality to the way the camera sweeps in around the greenery and landscape, not dissimilar to the way the man may be desperately scanning his surroundings. Spoiler alert. When he finally sees his love, we marvel with him in twinkling images of the sun shining through the trees, which is wonderfully symbolic that the light has now returned to his life.

22 Mays reminds one of the wonders, chaos and tragedy of love. In a time of immense loneliness, we must cling to our light more than ever.

22 Mays is now streaming on YouTube. For more information, see Pitlochry Festival Theatre website.