Take a lyre. Take a harp. Both string instruments, right? Well, not just string instruments. The lyre and the harp have been heroines of the music stage since the dawn of times. Since Orpheus first charmed his way in and out of hell. The lyre and the harp were also rivals for the affections of minstrels and courtiers.
In her one-woman show, Scandal, Lyres and Audiotapes, directed by Rafe Beckley, storyteller Clare Goodall imbues her musical instruments with a soul and an almost human personality. Moreover, she becomes at one with the numerous instruments laid out on the stage, which she lovingly picks up and plays during this forty-five minute performance.
From the moment you take your seat in the theatre, and see Clare Goodall already on stage, playing a 14th Century song on a dulcimer (a dulcimer – yes – when was the last time you saw one of those?) you sense that you are in for an unusual, priceless evening. Once the house lights are dimmed, she stands up and begins her tale of musical instruments and their role in Society, from Ancient Egypt through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The Lyre, mother of all string instruments reigns in supreme glory until she is usurped by her daughter, the seductive harp. She never forgives her. Many other troubadours witness the rivalry. Among them, the angelic dulcimer, the earthy shawn and the devilish bagpipes – each of them also trying to sing for his and her supper. Each has to be conscious of social conventions and positions, and of the roles prescribed to men and women.
Clare Goodall is clearly knowledgeable about the field, and her passion for the instruments – she handles each with the tenderness of a mother towards a cherished baby – latches onto everyone in the audience. She makes eye contact and tells you a story, and you cannot help but hang onto her every word.
Like a troubadour of yesteryear, she ends her tale with a thanks and a bow. At that point, aficionados of Mediaeval music and new converts alike start firing questions at her. They want more, and she answers every question, showing off her instruments with obvious pride. A few people step onto the stage and gingerly touch the instruments with their fingertips. “Go on, try playing it,” she encourages. And so we stroke the polished wood and pluck at the strings of these wonderful objects.
Rafe Beckley’s direction makes this monologue with music and audience involvement flow like a smooth melody.
I am certain that Scandal, Lyres and Audiotape will be like a pinch of magic powder during the Edinburgh season.
Scandal, Lyres and Audiotape is on at the Space on the Mile (venue 39)
Preview 13th August £5(£3.50 concessions)
14th-18th August £7(£5 concessions)