Mysteries of the cosmos explored in ambitious new theatre show and three Gaelic writing commissions

  • Published on: 28th January 2022
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An ambitious new theatre project at the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will tackle complex astronomical ideas with only the 1000 most commonly used words in English and Gaelic.

The Edge of the Sky | Oir Nan Speur is an adaptation of an internationally acclaimed book in which Italian astrophysicist Roberto Trotta tells the story of the ‘All There Is’ (Universe) through the eyes of a ‘student woman’ (astronomer) with a ‘Big Seer’ (telescope). The book has already been translated into German, Korean and Catalan.

The theatre adaptation – at An Lanntair on Friday 18 February – stars Elspeth Turner and Daibhidh Walkeras astronomers separated by hundreds of years, trying to unravel a story from the past following a cataclysmic event. Adapted and directed by Laura Cameron-Lewis, the show will be accompanied by three new Gaelic writing commissions by Peter Mackay, Rody Gorman and Elspeth Turner, which also explore the Universe through simple language.

The project is produced by Lewis-based company sruth-mara. Sruth-mara previously developed and co-produced the premiere of Move-Gluasad (**** The Guardian, **** The List) by Julia Taudevin, later selected for the Made in Scotland showcase at the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe, where it also received four star reviews. Other sruth-mara projects include a theatre adaptation of Alastair McIntosh’s book Soil and Soul, by Alan Bissett, and most recently an event marking the 20th anniversary of playwright John McGrath’s death, with guests including film and theatre director Richard Eyre, actor John Stahl, writer and broadcaster Dolina Maclennan, and theatre critic Joyce McMillan.

The Edge of the Sky | Oir Nan Speur will have its first public performance at An Lanntair on Friday 18 February, supported by Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Laura Cameron-Lewis said: “Roberto’s book is a beautiful piece of storytelling which attempts to explain the incomprehensible nature of the universe in only the 1000 most commonly used words. I was excited to explore the poetry of this within Gaelic language which of course has its own rich metaphors for the skies, and to look at that from the perspective of a future where a digital blackout has taken place and people have re-established their direct connection with nature and the skies above. For us now, where light pollution obscures the true depth of the stars, it’s exciting to build the imagery of astrophysics without the Hubble photos that have so awed us, and to use old analogue projection technology and pure storytelling. There’s something magical about the collision of that with the vastness of the Universe.”

Roberto Trotta said: “I always felt that the language in my book would greatly benefit from being spoken aloud. In her exciting adaptation, Laura Cameron-Lewis has added a new layer of magic by introducing a dialogue between English and Gaelic, between the past and the future, and between science and imagination. I cannot think of a better way to appreciate and be awed by the power of the All-There-Is!”

Roberto Trotta is an astrophysicist who was awarded the 2020 Annie Maunder Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society for his work in public engagement. Following the publication of The Edge of the Sky he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the 100 Global Thinkers 2014. He is currently Head of the Theoretical and Scientific Data Science at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy.

Laura Cameron-Lewis is a Lewis-based director whose recent work includes Danni the Champion (***** The Scotsman), commissioned by the BBC & National Theatre of Scotland, and This Women’s Work, commissioned by Dance Base.

The fourth Hebridean Dark Skies Festival runs from 11-25 February, with an arts and astronomy programme bringing together Scotland’s new Astronomer Royal Catherine Heymans, singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni, and lots more. The festival is supported by Caledonian MacBrayne, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Culture and Business Fund Scotland.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is led by An Lanntair, in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Lews Castle College UHI, Gallan Head Community Trust and Calanais Visitor Centre, with support from Caledonian MacBrayne, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Outer Hebrides Tourism, Visit Scotland, and Cala Hotels.

Hebridean Dark Skies Festival tickets can be booked here or by calling 01851 708480.

To request interviews or images, please contact Hebridean Dark Skies Festival Director Andrew Eaton-Lewis at