I venture to call this a tone poem and hope that I do not mislead you. A Walk at the Edge of the World may be from a company called Magnetic North, but it will confuse your theatrical bearings. A nice man takes you on a circular walk and then – in a manner of speaking – throws your compass into the Water of Leith. It is disorientating but it is also special and intriguing.
You meet your guide down by the Landform earthwork in front of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. You follow him for thirty minutes and you do not speak. You reach the Studio building where you sit down and listen to an illustrated talk about… walking. But now there’s a script in play – at least you think there has to be – and your trusty, avuncular, ‘guide’ with the welcome new hip turns preoccupied and troubled by killjoy parentage. What might have been pretty tea-time slides of the West Country turns into a way-out magic lantern show.
Imagine the visiting speaker at the village hall who begins to go slightly odd. What’s his audience to do? When does the outlandish become downright mystifying? How off-piste is Doggerland? Why did the twenty-year-old Bach walk 250 miles and back again? What is it about Emperor penguin eggs that’s worth the worst journey in the world? Ever been stranded in a refuge above a tidal causeway? Do you remember Donald Crowhurst? Get my drift?
Performer Ian Cameron does very well to keep this together. Yes, there’s a more than satisfying overall coherence to Nicholas Bone’s text but the content is surprising, can wrong foot you, and the narratives are challengingly disparate. When Cameron breaks off for a glass of water or repeatedly clears his throat or falls silent and looks lost, you wonder if his subdued character has really gone away, which has to be the point, I guess.
It is a far-flung piece and I liked going along with it. However, the initial walk ended up beyond me. It makes sense, naturally, to start that way but it lasted from 5.00 to 5.30pm and whilst we were silent, as we’d been asked to be, the rest of Edinburgh was coming home from work. Bird call and rushing water at the weirs came up against traffic (briefly), mobile phone chat, dog walkers, runners and cyclists. I would have been better placed wandering around by myself in the grounds of the art galleries. They are, after all, designed to be inspirational.