“Once upon a dark time, someplace in the glum north o’ the warld…”
Grimmer than Grimm, brusquer than Burns, as challenging as Chaucer, there’s something quite extraordinary about Sarah Cameron’s utter possession of the language of The Red Chair, the Clod Ensemble show she has written and co-adapted. Dancing from her mouth in ribbons of musically-inflected Scots brogue, words are imbued with a near-mystic energy that flows through the room and wraps an indescribable feeling around the listeners who have gathered to hear her on this tour which stretches from Brighton to Newcastle.
As a reviewer, I’m probably not meant to use words like ‘indescribable’ but in all honesty, there’s magic going on here that defies clear rationalisation. A seemingly everyday list of foodstuffs becomes something extraordinary, full of texture, feeling and even taste as Cameron offers such delights as “fridgecake mud cake fudge cake fishcake” with a gently insistent rhythmical pull that is probably akin to hynoptism, but also conveying a deeply held conviction that ensures we never mistake this for randomly selected wordplay.
Instead it has all the precision (and the substance) of an epic poem, stretching luxuriantly into the nearly two hours of its running time. An indulgence perhaps, something to endure others may fear, but there’s something so deeply satisfying about the way the story is allowed to uncoil at its own pace, unconstrained by conventional notions of when an interval should hit and forcing us to pay attention in something of a different way to what we might be used to.
Instead, there are pauses in the tale, three interludes where snacks are served (a Moro cake, a Medjool date, a nub of Valrhona chocolate and a wee dram o’ Johnnie Walker) but these aren’t really comfort breaks, Cameron and director Suzy Willson remain in control of how we partake of this experience and rightly so. What’s it about? Well I’ll start with “there lived A Man, A Wumman and A Wee Girl…” and you should book to find out the rest.