22nd October – 15th November (Tuesday-Saturday)
19.30 (plus 14.00 Wed & Sat)
Female agricultural workers in the Scottish Borders in the 19th century. Hard work, long hours, low pay, a life of male suppression, but a lifestyle slightly elevated above many others at the time was offered to these women willing and able to work. Often noted as feisty , these women worked extremely hard but were known to enjoy dancing and singing and with a will to make the best of their situation. In this play we follow the hardship, struggle, joy, humour and tragedy of 6 bondagers, each with a different story but bound together in their family-like sisterhood to make it through their tough working lives, with support and a genuine love for each other.
Upon entering the beautiful Lyceum auditorium the audience is greeted with the sight of a large edge-less field. Soil and gentle mist covering the whole stage area cleverly transforms the theatre and immediately envelops the audience with the atmosphere of a 19th century farm. Feeling cold and harsh at times, and warm and cozy at others, the set is brilliantly effective and clever in it’s simplicity. Scenes are given much depth and authenticity by the characters being able to walk silently over the muddy ground and actually digging into the soil to fling over their shoulders, creating dramatic silhouettes on a cleverly lit stage.
The play moves at a good pace, never dragging and every scene merging seamlessly to the next. Each actress plays her part with conviction and tenderness, and as a group are a powerfully engaging cast with dialogue executed in the broad Borders accent clear and understandable to all. Cath Whitefield’s portrayal of ‘Totti’ was particularly impressive – A young woman with suggested undefined learning difficulties, struggling to find her place in a restricted world and unavoidably falling victim to her situation was the most revealing story within the play.
The energy was strong throughout with singing and dancing moments scattered appropriately. The well-chosen music that complemented the performance was a highlight, being folk songs from the Scottish Borders and Northumberland,all gently intertwining with the story and give the whole performance a lovely weight. There was an enjoyable, almost playful, energy throughout, which had the effect of not adequately portraying the actual long hours of boredom and true hardship these women lived with day in day out – a possible downside for viewers hoping for more of a learning experience of the true life of a bondager. But overall a very slick, well put together and enjoyable performance. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Pip Burnett