JOYCE MCMILLAN on THREADS at Mac-Arts, Galashiels, for The Scotsman, 7.11.15.
3 stars ***
SPINNING, MEASURING, CUTTING. The figures of the three Muses, forever repeating these three timeless acts of making and unmaking, are a recurring presence in Sylvia Dow’s new play, now finishing a week-long tour of the Borders; and they emphasise both the ancient link between the ideas of spinning, weaving and storytelling, and the profound place of textile-making in the history of Borders’ women.
Inspired by a Hawick-based project called Knit2Together – which encouraged women (and some men) from the region to come together for sessions of knitting, reminiscence and storytelling about Borders life and industry – Dow’s play, produced with immense loving care by Stellar Quines of Edinburgh, is perhaps too short, at just an hour, to do full justice to the rich layers of meaning suggested by its subject. The play contains just one fully-realised character – a poverty-stricken 19th century Hawick woman, beautifully played by Molly Innes, who stole yarn from the local mill out of sheer desperation – and has to content itself, otherwise, with brief sketches, short quotes and enjoyable send-ups.
If the play slightly undersells the weight of its subject-matter, though, Muriel Romanes’s production is both impressively cast, and memorably beautiful to look at, as old images of Borders textile-making merge, in Jeanine Byrne’s lighting and costume design, into rich walls of imagery, colour and light. And with musical diretor Robert Pettigrew at the piano, the five-strong company spend a good part of the show singing out great Borders songs of work, joy and suffering; in an evening that suggests possible bigger plays to come, on this theme, but is still richly enjoyable in itself.
Final performance tonight, Smailholm Village Hall.