Perth Festival Review: Flit is a compelling and moving work that strikes the perfect balance between the personal and the political

Some of Britain’s most talented folk musicians took to the Perth Concert Hall on Friday for the first of two performances of Flit – a multifaceted and compelling production devised and conceived by Martin Green, the award winning accordionist and composer from experimental folk trio Lau.

Thematically Flit explores ideas of human movement and migration, of leaving home either of your own volition or forced migration thanks to a hostile environment. Given the current political, philosophical and ethical debates currently taking place all around the world, Flit is in many ways a timely work, but at the same time its origins are much more personal.

As Green notes both in the production notes and during the course of the show, the creation of Flit was by accident and without design, born not out a desire to deliver a specific political message, but instead to discover more about his family history and to record his Grandmother’s stories for the benefit of his children and future generations. And for the most part the show doesn’t feel explicitly political; it’s subtler than that. Certainly Green in his interjections to the audience rarely comes across as didactic or proselytizing – instead he is often light hearted and jovial, which makes the moment of anger and indignation near the shows close all the more powerful. It’s clear the show has been influenced by contemporary events in the UK, like Brexit, and events in Europe, but they do not rule it.

If you’re going to Flit expecting traditional folk music you might find yourself a little disappointed, though of course there are elements of the tradition nestled in there. There was a darkness to much of the music played, an atmospheric overbearingness that was obviously by design. Initially there seemed to be a few sound issues, with the music threatening to overpower the vocalists Becky Unthank and Adam Holmes and some of the pre-recorded stories and monologues, but as the show progressed that ceased to be an issue at all. I’ve been a fan of The Unthanks and Adam Holmes for a few years now, and seeing them on stage live served as a welcome reminder of the rich quality of their vocals. It was great too to hear Aidan Moffat’s voice on some of those pre-recorded elements – there is a warmth and familiarity to his Scottish brogue (for me at least).

Throughout the show animations were projected onto the almost Neolithic cave like set. These animations, devised by whiterobot, showed a powerful simplicity and linked well to the aesthetic of the set – on the one hand they had that simple representative feel like cave paintings, but they also had the paper texture that was also a big feature in the set design of Barney George.

There are a lot of different elements at play in Flit, but Green and his creative team, bring them together seamlessly into a performance that is both compelling and moving. Across its 75-minute running time Flit shows a lot of heart, strikes the perfect balance between the personal and the political and delivers to its audience some starkly beautiful moments that will pull at the heartstrings.

Flit enjoys one more performance at the Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 18th February as part of the Perth International Arts Festival 2017.

The reviewer attended the first performance on February 17th.

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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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