Return to the Voice

Reaching deep into the heart of song

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 10 Aug 2014

Apart from a small harmonium on the floor, the stage is bare. But that’s not to say there is nothing to see. Up above in the stained glass are images of pain and resurrection, humility and adoration. The scent of St Giles’s old stone is in the air.

We’ve already been relaxed and lulled by the "warm up" - as Artistic Director Grzegorz Bral puts it – of Gillebrìde MacMillan’s honest, modest Gaelic tunes. As an opening harmonium note sounds, Anna Maria Jopek takes a microphone, breath-touching distance from the first row. She is dressed as if for a pagan wedding, her arm adorned with a delicate beautiful tattoo.

When she opens her mouth, the note that grows from inside her is unreal.

Return to the Voice is my first experience of seeing Polish company Song of the Goat - known for their integration of movement and song - and it is extraordinary. The company has based the piece around archival recordings of Scottish songs, arranged for polyphonic voices. As they sing they turn to each other, extend open palms: comforting, ushering a soloist forward; sometimes like an offering, sometimes to offer us confrontation or sorrow.

Narrative is drawn out as it is in a Medieval painting: no matter how long you spend looking at the performers you can’t figure out exactly what is being exchanged between them. But you can feel it, with the same mystery contained in those sacred stained-glass images above. And Jopek’s voice is like a drug I could have taken all night.