Cailleach is a performance-based piece created in partnership between the Mull Theatre and Sonder Circus. It is played and performed by Lauren Jamieson, with Joanna Vymeris as the Bride and Ashley Smith as the Narrator. The trio encapsulate the mythological battle of the seasons, which has been subtly going on for generations.
The Cailleach is originally from Gaelic dialect, with the word literally meaning “old woman, hag”, but was incorporated within Highland mythology to represent a being who reigns over the winter seasons. In contrast, Bride is a representation of spring-time; she patiently awaits her season’s return with all of the life and light which comes along with it. This forty-minute performance presents the conflict between these two goddesses, their seasons, and how each attempts to control the natural landscape.
From its outset, this performance (available on demand and online) is stunningly beautiful. It artfully captures the presumed Highland Landscape, reminding any viewer of the true power and beauty in the natural world. The natural setting is deeply effective for this folklore-ian retelling of a perhaps forgotten mythology.
What makes this piece so fascinating to watch is the incorporation of the breathtaking landscape, the mythological story, and the use of acrobatics as the means through which to portray it. The use of modern interpretative dance evolves into more aerobic based movement and finally a very modern use of a hoop in the final parts of the piece. With ballet incorporated in movements, Cailleach uses the sculptural nature of the body within the setting of the woodland landscape, to create an evocative re-imagining of these nature based legends.
The performance allows for a modern and refreshing interpretation of highland goddesses. Jamieson’s performance allows for the Cailleach to be presented as strong, powerful, bold, and brave, all characteristics of the winter season. One greatly admirable quality to this piece is the delicate use of costume and the textures within them. The illuminating quality of the various light-toned costumes forcefully contrasts to numerous outdoor settings used. It is simple, but deeply effective techniques such as this which add to the complexity of the three leading characters and the natural battle we see taking place.
At its heart, this is a piece all about the conflict of the seasons. This adds both narrative and drama to something which due to its slow occurrence in busy, modern life can be easily forgotten or taken for granted. Cailleach allows for the wildness of women and especially mythological female beings to be examined and celebrated. The ultimate parting message, which encapsulates this performance, is that traditions may fade but we can always connect to old customs and wisdom. This piece is a timely reminder of the past power which both the seasons and mythology had in our society, and that this is one folklore tradition which must be cherished and kept alive.
Cailleach is available to stream online until 28 August. For more information and tickets see Mull Theatre’s website.