In the Weeds – Summerhall

Written by Joseph Wilde

Directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s not peculiar to find a water baby, a person with a likeness for being near to, or found in the water at any chance. Indeed, in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, it’s a relatively normal way of life – and those who find themselves unable to be anywhere which is largely landlocked. But there’s something about Coblaith’s permanency with the Lochs of the Hebridean islands. Her family has lived in these lands, her lands, for generations. And when she offers to help a visitor to the lands search out a mythical creature, a relationship blossoms on the shorelines, and imaginations flair of something ancient, something monstrous beneath the waters.

Conducting the entirety of the performance in a foot of water is no easy feat, but Carla Langley takes to the pool like a Selkie to a Loch. Coblaith is resoundingly fierce and feisty, adept at sidestepping attempts to discern her true form, spurning the Kazuni’s attempts to eke out her story. The stubbornness never feels petulant, always deserved given the nature of the tale and the trauma with which Coblaith speaks – making the final reveal even more intense and chilling. While Jamie Zubairi’s Kazumi is hesitant, almost adorable, in his yearning to find his place in the world and make sense of the misfortunes which seem to follow him.

The pair benefit from Rebecca Atkinson-Lord’s careful direction which allows the transference of status and power to flow naturally between the pair, keeping Langley on the back foot, and allowing Zubairi the ability to play with his on-the-surface cowardly character. There’s an emphasis on performance which may be a cover for the script, which in spells finds itself tugging at kelp to find an answer or way around a premise. It makes for a mysterious script which, though paying off, may leave some frustrated.

Integral connection to sound and light – from the more aethereal use of colour and tone with the reflections of the Northern lights within the pools, to the crisp, bubbling pops of the Loch itself, before we succumb to the distorted mumbles and consuming void of the darkness below the surface. It evokes a peculiar, yet the deeply interesting notion of a macabre thriller meeting Celtic mythos under Benny Goodman’s lighting.

The depiction of small island mentality possesses a sting, Langley carrying the pain of choosing to remain in their homeland despite the judgements and violence of the neighbours. It’s a claustrophobic set, despite the scale of the Summerhall main stage – Kenneth Macleod’s choking design pushing our emphasis onto the performers and the small body of rippling water before us.

In the Weeds by Joseph Wilde infuses volatility with the intricacy and archaic nature of Scottish storytelling to somehow re-tell an entirely new story. It asks us just who the monster is, the islander with a taste for the water, or the visitor unaccustomed to these ways – or could be neither. Or worse, both.

‘Thriller meets Celtic myth’

Into the Weeds runs at Summerhall until August 28th.

Tickets for which may be obtained here.

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