Review: Tatha Wakes Up From A Very Long Sleep, Pitlochry Festival Theatre
2.0Overall Score

Whilst some London theatres finally begin to open their doors to a lucky and eager few audience members, our lovely Scottish theatres remain closed and very much in danger. It’s hard to say what lies ahead or how long this ‘dark period’ will last, but it’s important for us all to remain hopeful.

Although Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) remains closed as a building, a successful theatrical presence is maintained online. Working hard to sustain a connection with their audience, PFT are continuously producing artistic talks, engaging activities for young people and play-reading material, all in addition to their ambitious Shades of Tay project. This project aims to aims to engage artists, audiences and communities whilst celebrating the Perthshire area and the River Tay, the longest river in Scotland.

Tatha Wakes Up From A Very Long Sleep, written by Abi Zakarian and directed by Amy Liptrott, is the latest addition to the Shades of Tay collection.

Tatha is the river goddess. Embodied as a teenage girl in the modern world, she is waking up from a lengthy sleep and discovering the world around her, not entirely sure of her purpose. We share her journey and her joy as she revels in the moss, the sun and the river. Fun fact: Tatha is the Scottish Gaelic word for Tay. So, it could be said that Tatha is the spirit of the River Tay.

A drawing of a princess with flowing hair, emerging from a river. She is surrounded by flowers and rays of sunlight.
Illustration by Mirren Wilson, inspired by the play.

It’s worth noting that this digital work is not a play, nor is it anything close to a scene. More like an audiobook with visuals, this piece resembles the first chapter of a novel: we get the sense that an adventure is beginning and there is more of a story to unfold. Barbara Hockaday is light-hearted and mystical in tone as she delivers the text as though it’s a joyous bedtime fairy-tale. Her vocals are matched with footage of the River Tay and the Tayside greenery. The videography is slightly manic, which proves to be a sensory overload at points, which unfortunately distracts from the audio, rather than compliment it.

There’s a subtle modern commentary in Zakarian’s writing – Tatha finds the smell of wild garlic more thrilling and intoxicating than that of manufactured perfume. The text flows easily, very much like a river, and although it’s descriptive, it’s not entirely engaging. With the feature of a river goddess, the story definitely could’ve been taken further into the depths of fantasy.

Upon reflection, a few pieces within the Shades of Tay collection have the same format: filmed images of the River Tay paired with slowly read texts. Whilst this is appealing at first, and easily showcases the land, the structure is becoming repetitive. It would be interesting to see if there are more dynamic methods or forms of achieving similar effects, going forwards in the upcoming premieres.

PFT continues to plough on through this pandemic, and we can only hope that many other theatres can strive and afford do the same. If you can, please donate to your local theatre … the future might just need you.

Tatha Wakes Up From A Very Long Sleep is now streaming on YouTube. For more information, see Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s website.