Review: This Is Not Schiehallion, Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Schiehallion in Perthshire stands at 3,547ft and features a mystical view of Loch Tummel. Nothing beats climbing a munro in Scotland, the journey, the accomplishment and the connection made with yourself, your comrades and the land. The desire to feed that sense of adventure has never been more important. If you travel further along the River Tummel, you’ll get to Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) where adventures are brewing.

After having recently launched their Shades of Tay project, as a love letter to Scotland and a celebration of all artists, PFT have commissioned 50 new works to be digitally produced over the next two years. This project features the 2020 summer season ensemble, who would’ve been coming to the end of their run if circumstances were different. Shades of Tay embraces community, history and authentic expression.

This Is Not Schiehallion, written by Ellie Stewart and directed by Amy Liptrott is the third in the series of digital works, with the aim of 2 or 3 being released per week.

A sketch inspired by the piece – Mirren Wilson

The opening image of This Is Not Schiehallion is nothing short of hilarious: two individuals on a zoom call, doing step up aerobics on their fold out steps. Brother and sister duo James and Laura get creative as they carry out a sponsored virtual walk to get to the summit of Schiehallion in memory of their mum. Full of light humour, fun and pensivity, the scene follows the siblings as they work to overcome their struggles.

The dynamic between the two is instantly and effectively established. Richard Colvin as James, is slightly unwilling and laid-back which contrasts comically with Blythe Jandoo as Laura, whose positivity and drive will surely get them to the imaginative top. Whilst you may think it would be harder to actually climb a hill, mentally it’s trickier to complete this trek in your living room.

Stewart’s writing is rich in subtlety. The text swoops over the void of grief and the spiritual needs of the individual but still remains emotionally charged. There are some cleverly tender moments, as the love shines through these characters when talking about their mum or when they falter in continuing with the journey.

The power of imagination in This Is Not Schiehallion is impressive as Stewart’s script celebrates the human spirit and the siblinghood bond in a wacky yet delightful scenario. To overcome obstacles, James and Laura take a moment to reflect and move forwards with humour, never taking themselves too seriously. Rather amusingly, James reminds Laura “It’s not about the summit, it’s about the journey,” and if the past few months have taught us anything, it’s definitely that.

This Is Not Schiehallion is now streaming on YouTube. For more information, see the Pitlochry Festival Theatre website.