For anyone who's ever wondered what it might be like to find themselves trapped inside a sweltering hot bothy with only a raving, emotionally incontinent crofter for company, this is surely the must-see show of the Fringe. American visitors with tenuous ancestral ties to Scotland may be equally enthralled by the biscuit tin mythology on display here. For the rest of us, this is a fairly run-of-the-mill exercise in young hopefuls prancing about while exuding either maternal sass or unconvincing machismo.
Set on a remote Scottish island, the musical revolves around Ula, a strong-willed but responsible young woman who finds herself unable to accept an invitation to join her young love on a one-way voyage across the ocean. Longing not so much for a better life as a different one, the heroine stays behind and starts a family, bound by duty to her land and its people. All the while, she clings to a fantasy of what could have been, inadvertantly creating friction in her present.
The flaw underpinning this piece is that an hour isn't enough time in which to establish a sense of Ula's yearning. The musical takes all the ingredients of an elegaic, generation-spanning epic and crams them into 60 brisk minutes. Clunky exposition signifies the passing of time, while the cast and musicians' spirited performances are given little room to breathe.
A collaboration between the prestigious American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University in Chicago, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Noisemaker, there's an abundance of talent on stage, it just hasn't been offered a suitable vehicle on this occasion.