If the Shades of Tay series is a “love letter to Scotland”, This is the Scene is a love letter to the river itself. Poet and creator Jenny Lindsay uses her own experiences of time spent on its banks to create a moment of peace dedicated to reflection. Images of water frothing onto the shore, herons fishing, trains rumbling over the bridge provide an excellent backdrop for Lindsay’s words. Her voice is rich and melodic and flows like the river itself.
Though I struggle at first not seeing the performer’s face, focussing on the voice allows me to concentrate on the tone, feeling and text itself. Lindsay’s voice is delightfully sibilant, mimicking the hiss of the waves crashing onto walls. Sometimes the text is delivered slowly, lovingly and with warmth; sometimes with a punch and through giggles.
Though a love letter, This is the Scene is also a love story. The speaker recalls her love for the Tay and for a person named Zoe, whom she decides not to meet with in the end. Lindsay personifies the river, anthropomorphises her. River as woman, woman as river. Both with curves, depths and timed flows. It is a fascinating comparison and as an audience we are unable to differentiate between the speakers comments on Zoe and the Tay. Perhaps we are not supposed to.
Lindsay comments on the reasons people visit a river, specifically alone. We can all identify with the brooding half-hours spent staring out into water, gathering our thoughts. The piece is also funny; Lindsay mocks the Instagram crowd who seek beautiful places to document them rather than enjoy them.
We might miss references to creating something of value from negative experiences if we weren’t living in such strange times. The difficulties of the past year and environmental challenges faced by natural features are hinted at and Lindsay speaks of the Tay as if it is a living, breathing organism, not simply a host for others. I’m ashamed to admit I have never thought of a river this way and this piece changes my mind.
It’s obvious to me that the Tay means so much to the people who live nearby, who visit and who mine it’s resources. For me, the Tay now means a few minutes of stillness, of contemplation and the gentle reminder that without those irritating bits of grit, we would never find pearls.
Shades Of Tay is a series of short pieces reimagined during and in response to the global pandemic after initial commission in 2019. Brought to life by the Summer Season ensemble, more pieces are due to be added soon.