Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle Upon Tyne – 27 June 2018
Reviewed by Andy Bramfitt
Take a step through time and walk in the shoes of the Scottish soldiers who became Durham’s darkest secret.
Laura Lindow has written a powerful and poignant piece which transports the audience back into 17th century Scotland and brings alive the heart-breaking tale of local lads who were conscripted to fight against Cromwell’s English army and their families they were forced to leave behind. Based on the archaeological findings at Durham Palace Library, and using the forensic evidence which helped to establish the soldiers’ lifestyle, Woven Bones is clever, witty and captivating. Taking the audience back from the initial discovery of the remains to the childhood of one of the soldiers, we follow his story as he leaves the Western highlands and walks down the length of the country, finally ending up at the battle of Dunbar. From here, our soldier is captured and becomes a prisoner of war, marched further south and held captive with thousands others in Durham Cathedral. Luckily, he was one of very few who survived and ended up leaving these shores for a new life in a New World.
The cast, Greig Adam, Paula Penman and Gemma Stroyan are brilliantly inventive, providing everything from the soundscape of building work right through to becoming archaeologists providing the science behind the soldier’s story. They very quickly draw you into the world of Scottish families in the mid 1600’s with a blend of humour and pathos. Director Brad McCormick keeps the intensity high, made all the more claustrophobic by Katie Doherty’s ambient soundtrack, while Anna Reid’s design is impressive in its simplicity.
If you have been to see the Bodies of Evidence exhibition at Durham Palace Library then Woven Bones is a brilliant companion to the whole story. Laura Lindow has once again written a piece of theatre which transcends time and cultures and, by ensuring that it’s not just the story of the soldiers bit also their families we cannot ignore that each set of bones found represents a life amongst lives.
Woven Bones is on tour in June & July – check out the Cap-a-Pie website for more details and tickets: 29th June, The Maltings, Berwick 3rd July. The Customs House, South Shields 5th July, Arts Centre Washington 6th & 7th July, Gala Theatre, Durham