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Theatre Review: Skeleton Wumman

Lorna Irvine reviews 'a stunning elegiac piece of theatre'.

Gerda Stevenson's re-telling of the classic folk tale is a stunning elegiac piece of theatre, with three stories in one: a ghost story, love story and sharp satire on the patriarchy.

'The Bairn' (Amy Conachan) is a disabled child with an insular father who cannot cope in a small fishing village with a dwindling industry. So he takes to drink, embarrassed by his little girl's coming of age, and lack of finances, and grieving for another daughter who died young.

The girl, unable to speak but whose inner thoughts we hear in wry narration as the titular Skeleton Woman (like a Scottish siren), finds refuge in the arms of a mysterious lover, a deaf boy (Buchan Lennon, playing both father and partner) with whom she is reunited in death when she is entangled in a cable, drowned. His tears nourish her, and his love provides a redemption she found elusive when alive.

Weaving lyricism, choreography, sign language and ethereal music (the live score by musician/performer Seylan Baxter is utterly spell-binding) and a gorgeous shimmery aquatic set by Patrick McGurn, this play is like a little sister to the late Angela Carter, a fragile, sensitive work of sensuality and haunting beauty with a wonderful cast of three. Catch it when it comes to the Traverse in Edinburgh, or later at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, before it swims away and is gone for good...perhaps.

Tags: theatre

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