IN THE end, the quality of the work seemed to matter more than the concept at the huge Scot:lands event that dominated the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay New Year’s Day programme.
Shadow:land - The Hub
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Heid:land - Dancebase
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Nether:land - Scottish Storytelling Centre
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At its home base in the National Museum of Scotland, huge queues snaked through the building as a reported 16,000 people waited to spin a wheel of fortune and be allocated tickets for three of the nine Scot:lands events being staged at venues across the Old Town.
Yet the memory of the heaving crowds seemed to melt away as soon as audiences found themselves in spaces like the main hall at The Hub, transformed yesterday into a temporary home for Shadow:lands. This was a short, elegant and beautiful 30-minute version of last summer’s multi-authored, multi-art-form Arches show Whatever Gets You Through The Night, about the dramas of yearning, mourning, loss and celebration that carry people through the night hours in Scotland today.
Down at Dancebase, meanwhile, the Pathhead music collective from Midlothian was staging Heid:land, a festival-within-a-festival, a feast of concerts, participation, ceilidh-dancing and relaxed pub-style jam sessions that filled the entire building. I caught a brief but beautiful 20-minute concert by the sublime Karine Polwart – four songs of such power that the packed audience were reduced to a pure, perfect silence, followed by roars of applause.
And at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in the High Street, Bob Pegg and the Prestonpans Mummers offered up Nether:land, a useful reminder of the history of winter solstice celebrations, sometimes rough-edged and ponderous, but topped off by a gorgeous fire dance in the rain-drenched garden. This was a memorable finale to an event that not only reimagined the city as a series of beautiful performance spaces, but also, at its best, gave those spaces new layers of meaning, on the first day of a momentous new year.