John Byrne’s setting for ‘The Air That Carries the Weight’ spread luxuriantly across the Traverse main stage in a way that made one fearful it might dominate the action.
Melody Grove (Isobel) and Pauline Lockhart (Yvonne (‘Yoni’) quickly dispelled any such qualms, however, as both moved us swiftly and effectively from the material to the spiritual and into a thoughtful examination of the nature of friendship and of loss, and that of the present in the past and the past in the present.
Rebecca Sharp’s text covers all these bases and more with a poetic lyricism that at times, for this reviewer at least, threatened to overwhelm, but thankfully never quite did.
Sharp’s play is rooted in both place (Argyll), and times (those of Marion Campbell and Mary Sandman and also of Sharp’s contemporary characters) and pays due deference to both.
The friendship of Isobel and the deceased Yoni mirrors that of antiquarian and amateur archaeologist Marion Campbell with childhood friend and later collaborator Mary Sandman, and Sharp’s time and character shifts create an ever-altering mosaic of changing moods and chronologies over which both writer and actors maintain seemingly effortless control.
In these respects ‘The Air That Carries the Weight’ marks a very considerable achievement, creating a distinctive and thought-provoking piece where linearity and literalism would have utterly failed to do so.
Its very distinctiveness, can, at times threaten to tumble the play into a place its author would presumably prefer it not to be, and it’s to the credit of Sharp, director Muriel Romanes and the cast that this never quite happens.
Stellar Quines have never been a company to duck a challenge, however, and this production of ‘The Air That Carries the Weight’ rises to those it presents and fully justifies the company’s continuing reputation.