City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland


By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 22 August 2007

Show details
The Hub
Edinburgh International Festival Society
Running time: 
Jon Aaron (producer), Miriam Crowe (lighting designer)
Benjamin Bagby

Benjamin Bagby walks onto the stage at The
Hub: one man, one instrument and one of the most well-known and studied to
near-extinction texts of Anglo-Saxon England. Bagby becomes scop, the creative re-teller of tales
already firmly rooted in the consciousness of his listeners.

'Beowulf' in broad
outline bears some resemblance to 'classic' Western films; a group of settlers encounter
a hostile force they are unable to deal with and possibly to communicate with;
a stranger arrives, deals (usually murderously) with the threat and leaves the
grateful populace behind to continue his personal quest alone. The beast
Grendal is no band of marauding natives, nor some rapacious cattle baron, yet
the similarity of plot-line strikes; such is the power of story to continue to
enthrall us.

Bagby is clearly a dedicated as well as
talented performer. He works hard to produce a credible and creditable
impression of how performers would have used the metrical patterns of the piece
- their own craft's stock in trade, in other words - to serve the piece they
played whilst at the same time giving it their own gloss and touches. Reconstructions
must always be regarded with some justifiable suspicion; unavoidably we all
bring our present-minded perceptions to our interpretations of the past. Bagby,
however, is more genuinely respectful than many, and it's clear that a great
deal of research and consideration has gone into his re-interpretation of 'Beowulf'.

A slight downside for those without knowledge
of Anglo-Saxon and / or sitting to the rear of the auditorium was the task of
focusing on two comparatively small simultaneous translation screens. Bagby's very
lively and very clear performance, however, consistently gave a sense of the
action and carried through from opening 'Hwaet!' (listen) to closing lines. It's
one of the joys of the Edinburgh International Festival that it can attract performers
of the calibre of Bagby and mount valuable productions such as this.

Time: 8pm, 13-22 August (not Monday)