Review: After Miss Georgina Ballantine, Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Have you ever heard of Miss Georgina Ballantine? Let me tell you. On the 7 October 1922, Georgina Ballantine made history, catching the largest ever salmon on the River Tay. The fish weighed in at whopping 64lbs and measured 58 inches in length. After Miss Georgina Ballantine, written by Linda McLean, offers an insight into this legendary woman of Scottish history in a poetic new monologue performed by Rachel McAllister.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) – Scotland’s Theatre in the Hills. Idyllic, engaging and unique, it’s safe to say that no other theatre in Scotland produces a programme quite like it. With great ambition and success, PFT aim to engage audiences from near and far whilst inspiring the community to explore, connect and grow together in order to find a sense of belonging. Under normal circumstances, the team in Perthshire would be coming to the end of their summer season of 6 rotational plays. 

In 2019, PFT launched the Shades of Tay Project. As well as celebrating the Year of Scotland’s Coast and Waters in 2020, this project’s purpose is to grow and nurture artistic voices, celebrating all professional and non-professional creatives. From 2020 to 2022, 50 new works will be produced which will share stories of Scotland history, nature and people, to establish what tales need to be told. With the view and focus that, “art is wholly and truly inspired by nature,” this project is named after the River Tay – all 120 miles of it! 

Adapting to the current climate, PFT presents Shades of Tay on YouTube as experimental digital works, with the hint that they may well be produced in the flesh one day.

After Miss Georgina Ballantine gives a voice to this fisherwoman, exploring her relationship to the river and her admiration of the fish. Rachel McAllister’s bright voice is matched with video footage of the River Tay which all feels very alive. In addition to this, we hear the rush of the river and an underscore of magical, light tones in a piece composed by Ben Occhipinti. Although initially calming, the words and delivery style contrast and clash with the music, which unfortunately means that the text gets lost within the energy.

McLean’s imagery in her writing takes you to a place of nature and peace. Although it would be lovely to gain a little more information about Ballantine herself, the words take you on a journey through the forest and to the bank of the river – it’s clear that nature and adventure is always calling.

What’s wonderful about After Miss Georgina Ballantine, is that it dives into a single moment. As though in slow motion, we take a pause and appreciate an ordinary moment that became mythical and legendary in a flash. If this is just a glimpse of what lies ahead with the Shades of Tay project, Scotland is in for a momentous treat.

Sketch by Mirren Wilson inspired by the play

After Miss Georgina Ballantine is now streaming on YouTube. For more information, see the Pitlochry Festival Theatre website.