JOYCE MCMILLAN on DRIFT at Pettycur Beach, Fife, for The Scotsman, 4.7.15.

4 stars ****

IT’S IMPORTANT TO CHOOSE a beautiful day, when the sun sparkles on the sea and sand; or perhaps a wild one, when the roar of the wind matches the storm on the soundtrack.  Either way, though, no-one who experiences it will forget this beautiful  installation show by Vision Mechanics of Leith, touring beaches in Scotland this summer, and in Norway next summer.

The show is based on the true story of Betty Mouat, a 61-year old Shetlander who in 1886 set out by boat to sell knitting in Lerwick.  A storm blew up, the crew were swept overboard; and Betty drifted alone at sea for nine days, until she and the boat washed up, battered but alive, on the coast of Norway.

In eight installations linked by an inspired soundtrack, which we hear on headphones, Drift invites us to wander for 40 minutes across the sand, experiencing aspects of Betty’s inner life during this voyage, from her strong religious faith to her love of nature, as she glimpses the Northern Lights.  The music is an exquisite Shetland song-cycle, with music by Eddie Maguire, words by playwright Judith Adams, and vocals by Gerda Stevenson, in wonderful voice; the installations range from tiny, well-documented 19th century interiors to dream-like sculptures.  And the whole show offers a rare opportunity to merge into the landscape for a while; to live inside Betty’s story, and to think of the sea, of all it has meant to us, and of how it, too, now needs our protection, and our care.

Drift at Nairn Beach until tomorrow, and on tour to Unst, Arbroath and the Island of Eigg, until 9 August.



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