10 Questions: MAIM's Muireann Kelly and Ross Whyte

News 6 Mar 2020

MAIM's director (and Theatre Gu Leòr's Artistic Director) Muireann Kelly, and musician Ross Whyte (one half of musical duo WHYTE, whose recent album Tairm inspired the creation of the show) reflect on the impact of climate change of the Isle of Mull, how they collaborated with their cast to create the show, and the many and varied tools they use to tell their story in this edition of 10 Questions...

1. What inspired you to create MAIM?

MK: MAIM means panic or horror in Gaelic. When we started collaborating with the band WHYTE we explored themes in two of the songs on their latest album Tairm - Loss of language and land and the connection between the two. We focused on the panic we felt about what we are losing. Alasdair’s writing for the project explored the impact of this loss felt on Mull where he is from. All four performers in the cast also contributed to the writing process and each person’s unique contribution adding to the profound sense of urgency.

2. How did the collaboration between Theatre Gu Leòr and WHɎTE come about?

MK: From Theatre Gu Leòr’s point of view, I have been a huge fan of WHYTE’s music. I saw their Made in Scotland gig in Edinburgh in 2017 where they used AV as part of their performance and I was intrigued

RW: We shared a couple of songs from our last album with Theatre Gu Leòr and Muireann responded to those songs with all kinds of really great questions and ideas. Those two songs (Mùthadh and Clìodhna) explore a connection between land and language and became something of a jumping off point for MAIM.

3..How is MAIM different from Theatre Gu Leor’s previous productions?

MK: MAIM grew out of the music and the lyrics written by Alasdair and Ross Whyte, we also developed the piece by including stories written by Elspeth Turner and Evie Waddell in the cast. This approach is very different to how we’ve traditionally developed and commissioned plays in the past.

4. Will audiences who don’t speak Gaelic be able to understand the show?

MK: Yes, it is subtitled throughout, and a huge element in the show is the integrated BSL throughout the show. It is also very much a visual piece, with AV designed by Lewis Den Hertog and beautiful choreography by Jessica Kennedy of Junk Ensemble.

RW: I’m not a Gaelic speaker, but I engage with the language as part of WHYTE on a regular basis. One of my favourite things about working with Alasdair is responding musically to his vocal delivery and finding the heart of a song that way. In MAIM, with the additional element of integrated BSL, there has been a similar stimulus for how I respond with the music. I think non-Gaelic speaking audiences might find a similar way of engaging with the show.

5. How do you hope audiences feel having watched the show?

MK: I hope they’ll be provoked and moved.

RW: I hope they feel that they’ve been challenged in the best possible way and that the experience lingers with them long after seeing the show.

6. Are there any actions you hope that audiences take having watched the show?

MK: We hope that audiences will be inspired enough to perhaps take part in any of the movements and discussions taking place around Climate Change and hopefully also inspire support and pride in our native Gàidhlig language.

RW: I’d love it if people felt compelled to question and challenge any bigotry towards Gaelic that they might encounter and to take some pride in the language and culture even if they don't speak it.

7. If you had to describe MAIM in 3 words, what would they be?

MK: Raging, moving, panic.

RW: Unsettling, uplifting, urgent.

8. How does it feel to be performing at the Traverse?

RW: Very exciting. I’ve seen some great shows at the Traverse. It’ll be a huge buzz to be performing there.

9. What are your favourite Edinburgh haunts?

RW: The National Museum of Scotland is a favourite.

10. What’s the best piece of advice you think you’ve been given, either as a writer or performer?

RW: Spend a decent amount of time in the venue before going onstage. It definitely calms the nerves.

MAIM is at the Traverse on Tue 17 - Wed 18 March.

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