A chilly evening in Inverness is just the perfect place to experience the swirling installation-cum-performance piece The Dwelling Place. Talented brothers Lewis and Jamie Wardrop have created an immersive experience which transports the audience to a crumbling dwelling in South Harris and the stories it has to tell. The piece is inspired by the chance discovery of an abandoned cottage in Leverburgh during a holiday on the island. It led them to create a work which reflected on the island’s history of the last fifty years and the impact that changing times had on its way of life. Originally commissioned as part of the Cryptic Night programme for the CCA in 2015, it was performed at the Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016.
We are first told of the creation of Leverburgh, then the subsequent changing environment and problems that will bring. Amid a multi-media swirl of curated film on screens surrounding the space, and with areas depicting the detritus abandoned by the unknown previous inhabitants, the brothers take you on a journey through the issues that the islanders have faced and will have to look to in the future. Using rarely heard poetry by Sorley MacLean, Iain Crichton Smith and Hugh MacDiarmid, soundscapes and music, they create a work which is both informative and captivating.
The audience are invited to roam and participate and bring their own experience to the table. With a mostly older audience this opportunity proves challenging but the chance to gather round an on-screen fire and enjoy storytelling is just the impetus needed. The piece comes to life. One audience member knows the house well, having visited it along with similar abandoned cottages in the area, and has tales of her own to tell after the show. The story of £500 left in a drawer which had never been touched or stolen is testament to the ethos of the community.
The video production and technical expertise is impressive, but it does sometimes detract from the piece. Melding sound, light and projection with live performance is tricky. At times, the effect is disorientating, although it reflects the disjoint of time. Occasionally it feels like more energy is needed, possibly because it is a reworking of something created two years ago. It would also have been intriguing to explore more why the house was abandoned, and who the inhabitants were. We are simply left with clues, from which we must use our imagination to decipher anything further.
However, the opportunity to experience this installation/performance is a pleasure. It is good to explore the creation of new work by young artists who are at the forefront of multimedia work, re-inventing traditional stories and places from a twenty first century viewpoint.