By Jess D’Ath

I have started, and restarted this review countless times now. Each time pressing delete, despairing at my inability to appropriately capture the essence of John Crick’s intriguing performance at the Nelson Fringe Festival on Sunday evening.

I had no idea what to expect from this show, Ancestor Voices, The Legendary Wanderer Tours. A show about journeying, which in turn, transported me farther than I could have anticipated.

At first I was confused, when the lights opened up on Crick’s Tuatara clad arm, I wondered if perhaps we were to be treated to a cultural puppet show. I was also concerned that the intense down pour outside, may in turn render us incapable of hearing anything he said. But my concerns were not met, neither puppet show, nor sound trouble eventuated.

Ancestor Voices was, as I soon learnt after desperately trying to decipher my program in the dark, a Ceilidh. A form of entertainment where stories, tales, poems and ballads are woven together, rehearsed and recited. Perhaps I should have read this prior to the show starting, as I am forced to admit to being rather confused at what was going on, and more than a little eager for things to speed up. Probably a result of my millennial attention span deficit.

Crick took us on a journey from the outer Hebrides in the 8th century, through to the highlands of 1854 using this form. This Ceilidh. This ancient way of story telling, which I had never experienced.

Luckily, Crick has a wonderful voice, so his singing really drew me into the atmosphere he was trying to create. At times, I found the poetry a little hard to follow, but then, I am not a poet, so perhaps I just didn’t know what I was listening to. The performance was broken into eight pieces, each encompassing a different place and story. I am unsure if the stories were connected, as there didn’t seem to be an obvious link, if there were, it would have been wonderful to have this outlined on the program so that those less experience Ceilidh attendees, such as myself, might be able to keep up.

The first few parts of the journey, came across rather abstract, and at times I didn’t know what it was we were watching. What I do commend him on though, is the final three pieces – Orkney, Highlands 1830s and Highlands 1854. These were the last three chapters (if you will) of the piece, and here his strength in acting really shone, as he adopted many different characters, from a Young Boy to an Old Woman, and managed to capture the heartache of saying farewell to loved ones as they disappear across the oceans to new lands.

Overall, I was left feeling as though I had been treated to something very special. While I still didn’t quite understand the importance of the Tuatara and the oft mentioned Taniwha from the beginning, at times I could easily imagine myself in a highland gathering listening to the Ceilidh with my family, enraptured by the stories unfolding happening before my eyes. By the time it finished, I had settled into the pace, I felt like I understood what I was watching, and I found myself regretting that I had to leave this story and go back into the rain and maddening pace of the modern world.

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