Theatre reviews: When Mountains Meet | Bridezilla and the Orchard of Sin

Anne Wood’s show about her journey to Pakistan to find her father is a ceilidh play for two cultures, writes Susan Mansfield

When Mountains Meet, Festival Theatre Studio, Edinburgh ****

Bridezilla and the Orchard of Sin, Oran Mor, Glasgow ***

The burgeoning of a range of cultural voices in Scottish theatre has brought a rich trove of stories to the surface, including When Mountains Meet from leading Scottish violinist Anne Wood, about her journey to Pakistan to find her father. Performed as a work in progress at last year’s Celtic Connections, it is now setting out on a Scottish tour.

Hide Ad
When Mountains Meet PIC: Robin MitchellWhen Mountains Meet PIC: Robin Mitchell
When Mountains Meet PIC: Robin Mitchell

Wood is a hugely acclaimed musician working across trad folk, rock and orchestral genres. Also a composer who has studied Indian classical music, she weaves a relatively simple story into an immersive, multi-layered experience.

Wood was in her early twenties when she wrote to her Pakistani father asking if she could meet him. An ebullient doctor with a passion for Pringle jumpers, he welcomes her with open arms and whisks her off on a tour of the country.

But Wood feels increasingly ill at ease. Is her father keeping her from his Pakistani family because having a daughter who is “an illegitimate foreign musician” would bring disgrace? Forging meaningful relationships across this yawning cultural divide feels like moving mountains.

While the events described in the play happened more than two decades ago and the script is sometimes overly simple, explaining when it might be better to evoke, the story is brought to life by its magical staging. Co-directed by Kath Burlinson (who directed Mairi Campbell’s shows Pulse and Auld Lang Syne) and Niloo-Far Khan, with a superb multicultural band fronted by Wood, it is a ceilidh play for two cultures.

Bridezilla and The Orchard of Sin PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken WanBridezilla and The Orchard of Sin PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Bridezilla and The Orchard of Sin PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The story is held by three performers, Hassan Javed, Jamie Zubairi and Iman Akhtar, who move among the audience. Seated at tables, we are invited to hold a piece of Lewissian gneiss, taste delicious kahwa tea and Pakistani sweets and make a paper aeroplane. Ali Maclaurin’s inventive design includes video projection on fabric mountains and costumes which beautifully blend Pakistani dress with tartan and tweed.

And central to everything is Wood’s music, a daring and seamless blend of two very different musical cultures across reel and strathspey, alap and raag, English, Gaelic and Hindustani. If Wood rarely puts down her violin to participate verbally in the telling of her story, she provides its undertow: long before we know how it all turns out, the music is weaving harmony across two cultural worlds.

Hide Ad

If the hospitality and celebration of When Mountains Meet evokes, at times, a Pakistani wedding, we’re in the all-too-real world of weddings in Mairead A Martin’s Bridezilla and the Orchard of Sin, directed by Becky Hope-Palmer for A Play, A Pie & A Pint. Social media influencer Amber (Chiara Sparkes) has been planning her wedding since she was ten, so when, after a string of failed relationships, Gary (Santino Smith) says yes to her proposal, she’s ready to go full-on Bridezilla.

When the search for the perfect venue runs aground, in steps Lady Valgaria (Giga Gray), working as a barmaid in Glasgow to pay the bills for the crumbling family castle and its (possibly enchanted) apple orchard. Can she offer Amber and Gary “a wedding to die for”, or is she just out to seduce the groom?

Hide Ad

Martin, a New Playwrights Award recipient with the Playwrights Studio, hits the comedic beats of the story at the expense of allowing her characters much nuance. Sparkes is a convincing, if one-dimensional, Bridezilla. Smith gets the most interesting work to do as an accountant trapped in a world of sky-rocketing wedding bills.

The fantasy element of the show feels muddled: who exactly is Lady Valgaria? Are the apples the enchanted orbs of Snow White’s stepmother, or the forbidden fruit of the garden of Eden? Is Lady V Mephistopheles recast as a wedding planner, drawing the couple into a Faustian bargain? The story works best in the real world as a farcical comedy about the wedding industry and the danger of prioritising the perfect day over the relationship it’s meant to celebrate.

When Mountains Meet is touring Scotland until 31 May, see ; Bridezilla and the Orchard of Sin runs until 27 April



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.