Review: Meeting Tatha, Pitlochry Festival Theatre
3.0Overall Score

Freedom. How many of us truly realised its value until lockdown? And now we find ourselves in a position again where our freedom hangs in the balance, as tougher restrictions are rumoured day in and day out.

In Meeting Tatha, written by Hannah Lavery and directed by Amy Liptrott, a troubled woman finds peace and some sense of solace as she escapes to her imagination, to connect and meet with the River Tay. This new digital short is the latest addition to Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s (PFT) Shades of Tay project, which aims to support artists and audiences in a creative dialogue, using the Perthshire area as a stimulus for storytelling.

Sarah stares out of her city window. She sees the Tayside. All of her life, she’s followed the rules and been warned that “danger comes to those who stray,” so she’s made sure to always follow the beaten path. But what has she missed in doing so? She longs to venture, to be free and explore this world in all its glory, no longer caring about the danger or the consequences – and that’s all part of the thrill.

Sketch, by Mirren Wilson, inspired by Meeting Tatha.

There’s a really sad tone and undercurrent to this piece. It’s not entirely clear what’s happened to Sarah but she describes a failed body, without control and substance and how “my time flows faster now.” We get the impression that she’s reflecting on her own demise. Lavery’s writing is in admiration of the River Tay – its power and strength to carve its way and endure, perhaps all that our speaker is lacking.

Yet, the short story becomes very hard to follow and is slightly nonsensical at points. Although the text is descriptive, it begins to feel like mad ramblings with disconnected thoughts. Performer, Kirsty Stuart, handles the text well with her energised delivery and uses each word fully, but the script gets you to a point where you’re not sure what the subject matter is anymore or how the piece even ends. This is confusing and disengaging as a viewer.

Lavery does however highlight a poignant thought – the permanence of rivers and the idea that the scenery and views are always changing, but also always the same.

Ben Occhipinti underscores Meeting Tatha with a subtle lullaby that adds a dreamy and childlike quality to the landscapes filmed by Russell Beard. The images flow in correspondence to the text, which is simple but effective and it’s wonderful that we get to see such a range of scenery.

Although Meeting Tatha is confusing, the piece is successful in connecting the power of imagination with the healing powers of nature; with some thoughtful moments, it proves to be a curious interpretation of freedom.

Meeting Tatha is now streaming on Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s YouTube Channel. For more information, see Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s website.