As we followed the torch-lit procession snaking along the back streets of St Andrews, there was a buzz of anticipation as to the destination. Walking in the direction of the shore, the pipe bands and flickering torches set the scene for what we hoped would be a fitting end to the Homecoming Festival for this ultimate of Scottish celebrations.
As a homecoming Scot myself, what could be more patriotic than to celebrate St Andrew’s Day in St Andrews? The premiere of WILDFIRE!-an outdoor Scottish-themed extravaganza, created by Alison Jones, made the journey from London all the more worthwhile.
Processing via an ancient archway close to the shoreline, the processing crowds were drawn towards an outdoor stage by an eerie sounding drone, not unlike a giant slowly waking from slumber. The scene was simple enough; shimmering ribbons streamed out on either side of a spotlit stage to beautifully atmospheric effect. As the narrator introduced the tale it became clear that at the heart of the story is a legendary fighter, Cuchulainn, and a warrior queen from the Isle of Skye, Scathach, whose fates become inextricably linked with tragic consequences. It’s a gripping narrative, careering from the heights of erotic passion to the depths of betrayal and grief, and unfolding via a series of dramatic scenes. The music melded genres to great effect, from folk right through to funk, with a healthy skirl of bagpipe at one point. Instrumentation switched seamlessly from electronic keyboard to plaintive violin, and in a show-stopping moment, the arrival of an ancient carnyx horn, stirringly evoking the “land of shadows” as it passed through the crowd.
Visually the story was played out in energetic dance, with martial arts-style acrobatics for the fight scenes, and a spot of torch juggling giving the setting a welcome glow. The action even introduced a local country dance troupe, a heartening sight on a cold winter’s evening. The whole experience made me want to find out more about these legendary characters and, given that the St Andrews show was an abridged preview, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a chance to see WILDFIRE! in all its glory.
Cate Langmuir, Editor, Jump Magazine.