Walden – Fruitmarket

Written and Directed by Nicholas Bones

Designed by Sans façon 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How far gone are we from our kindred association with nature? And how can one expect us to reclaim this understanding and appreciation of the world beneath our feet if we struggle to find peace with one another, even failing to do so with ourselves? Every gazing, Sans façon’s design, a tapered oval-shape bench if viewed from above crafted by Ian Kettles, an iris-like heap of sand at its centre, makes for an ideal storytelling space for Nicholas Bone’s remounted return performance of Walden, from the award-winning Edinburgh based Magnetic North.

First published in 1854, a text recorded Henry Thoreau’s experiences in removing themselves from the world – living alone for two years in a hut in the moods near Walden Pond, outside Concord, Massachusetts. Returning after a 2008 staging, Magnetic North’s remounted Walden is a graceful, yet thunderously astute and dignified hour of theatre and spoken word – Nicholas Bone’s measured changes maintain the integrity of Thoreau’s initial book, with a crisp sense of depth and appreciation.

But Bone’s revisitation comes with two significant alterations to their 2008 staging: first is our female performer Shakara Rose Caine whose serenity and capable storytelling technique enraptures the audience from the onset. Why, even their entrance to the piece is delightfully playful in its surreptitious connection with the crowd, planting the seeds of our kinship, our shared status. It’s a remarkably forthright performance, there is nowhere to hide in this space – nor is there the necessity to. With each wave of the hand or piercing yet comforting look to the audience, Carter conjures the woods and trees or the Walden Pond with a graceful command. Toying with sound in the silence, thanks in part to a large staff which accompanies them, Carter weaves their way through the sand to create a mandala of sorts, a scale map of the region among a more symbolic nature of storytelling.

The other additional element concerns this new production’s recognition of those who walked and, at one point, worked the land before Walden, onetime enslaved individuals who sought the opportunity to procure a sense of existence for themselves. The surrounding artwork from Harvey Dimond, so many keen and subtle masters, itself a response to Thereau’s original book, captures intense enhancement away from the centralised performance space. Throughout these artworks are accompanying flittering sounds and audio design by Lisa Asivile Mpoposhe, which taps into the landscape – weaving between clear and concise and a delicacy that only those attuned to the goings on may pick up. It leads to a remarkably meditative state which evokes the various critters and heart of nature which is inseparable from Walden.

Structurally, the pacing of the show flows – but comes to a conclusive finality that feels somewhat stunted, an urgency to keep the piece compact enough to satiate audiences. But there is still so much more to appreciate, to breathe and soak in that some find they are left still experiencing the impact, even after its conclusion. There’s a rareness to the production’s finality in that it extends beyond the appreciative audience applause, as the stillness resonates. Not one lifted body from the benches, no phones pulled out of pockets – a room full of humans sitting and appreciating one another and the company they have kept whilst watching this powerfully significant remoulding.

Powerfully Significant Remoulding

Walden runs at the Fruitmarket Edinburgh until April 1st.
Running time – One hour and ten minutes without interval. Information relating to the show, and Magnetic North may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – Jassy Earl


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