‘LAND – A Scottish Musical’ (Kick The Door) | Review By Keiran McLean

From sheep on the hill, to the flats in Castlemilk, from soldiers on the coast, to laughing at the Pointless host, show compassion, take your neighbour’s hand, and appreciate life in this show they call LAND.

LAND is a new musical by Scottish musical theatre company, Kick the Door. The show has just finished previewing at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock and is now heading to the Edinburgh Fringe before embarking on a national tour later in the year. Kick the Door are a Paisley-based theatre and film production company who aim to create and produce new, original Scottish-based work through a variety of mediums.

LAND – written by Iona Ramsey and Directed by Fraser Scott – is a new folk musical exploring multigenerational differences, identity and scottish history and heritage. It explores our relationship to the earth and follows two sets of unlikely friends in two very different times in Scotland – 18th century and 21st century. The story makes you evaluate relationships with both yourself and your surroundings through the story of a crofter/poet and a wandering soldier in the 18th century, and an elderly pensioner and his downstairs neighbour in 2022. The powerful stories are intertwined with an electric folk music blend performed live by the three actor/musician cast members. The musical is a beautiful representation of how opposing views, generational differences and stubbornness can be overthrown and blossom into a warming relationship.

Composer and lyricist Bethany Tennick was the glue for the whole story and performance. She began the piece onstage and performed the opening number as her fellow cast members entered the frame. Tennicks vocals were outstanding and faultless throughout the performance. Her slick transition between power notes and breathy falsettos mesmerized the audience and whenever she had the guitar in hand, you knew you were in for a treat. Tennick didn’t actually have a character which was interesting, she was interchanging between different roles to lift the scene, from a sheep in the 18th century to the embodiment of Chris Alexander’s 18th-century crofters wife. This added to the scenes and allowed Tennick to float between the time period and create a more visually rounded scenario with the minimalistic set. The music played by both Tennick and her co-star Robin Campbell was used in a less traditional musical sense and more of a vortex and Segway between the different time periods which was executed perfectly. After 10 minutes you realized that whenever a song began, you were traveling in time which kept the audience on the edge of their seat.

Robin Campbell had a very strong performance throughout the show and played both parts with great skill. His 21st-century story arc with Alexander was a highlight of the story. Campbell’s emotional journey for both characters elevated the second half of the show and flipped the status of both his characters which changed the dynamic entirely. His guitar playing and vocals were spot on and his subtles harmonies in the three part harmony alongside both his fellows cast members did not go a miss. The three actors hit excellent harmonies in each song which weren’t overbearing and very soft on the ears. The one flaw with Campbell’s role was that in the opening scene – after the song – Campbell began the opening dialogue right in front of the audience, with his back to the audience. Now this is more of a blocking issue with the director than it is with Campbell himself, and it is understandable why it was staged that way as it is a very intimate, close end on setting with very little set and lighting. However, for the opening dialogue of the play to be performed with the actors back to the audience, slightly blocking the view of everything else in the closer setup, it didn’t seem the best way to start off the piece.

Chris Alexander was the driving force of the acting element of the story. His acting stood out throughout the piece. Alexander’s comedic timing and execution was hilarious and added a light-hearted tone to the emotional journey of the text. His emotional and heartwarming character arc for his 21st-century character (Eddie) from this stubborn, old man to having love and so much appreciation for Campbell’s help and company was very touching and done in such a nice way with Campbell snapping and losing his patience, changing the dynamic of the relationship and for Alexander to hold out a helping hand and accept and acknowledge his appreciation for him. As before, Alexander’s vocals and harmonies were smooth and lovely to listen to.

The music overall was an amazing fusion of traditional Scottish folk music with a more modern electronic twist and this just added depth and atmosphere to the show.

The minimalist set was a highlight as every piece of the set was multi-purposeful. The simple box lying down turned out to be a Cajon box drum, the walking sticks were walking sticks and rifles, the TV was used as a vice to show the setting and weather as well as just being a TV and having the El Clasico football game on and Pointless. Everything was so thought out and utilised to their highest standard.

In Conclusion, LAND by Kick the Door theatre is a fantastic representation of Scottish heritage and the emotional journey of relationships. It is an impressive new musical with a lot of potential to take the fringe and their national tour by storm and grab the attention of a lot of Scottish theatre lovers.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Get your tickets for ‘LAND’ at the Edinburgh Fringe below:

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/land-a-scottish-musical

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