“It’s Christmas, and everything smells of pine needles.” And it’s hot, partly because we’re in a packed out, blacked out box in Edinburgh; but mostly because we’re imagining a height-of-summer December haze, on a lamplit street on a Melbourne night, with Margaret. Greenway assures us, convincingly, that we’re not in Edinburgh any more. And so begins The Way The City Ate The Stars.
This is a tale of tales, of three and a half intertwining stories waiting to converge. Greenway, who I think might actually be a time-traveller, sits us atop his shoulders as he dances deftly between these narratives. A year on from our encounter with Margaret, that humid Australian holiday night, she’s in labour. We’re rushing to the hospital. So is Great Uncle Sven. And Andrew’s found a bird. The threads of the stories begin to emerge, as we follow these three characters towards their conclusion – through tales of sandy shores, loves left behind and sandwiches slept on.
Greenway weaves a crystalline, hyperreal world, spun of lyrical gymnastics and unnoticed details. Personable and beardy, you let him become an extension of your senses as he paints his story in vivid technicolour. He’s a bit like the optician’s prescription you never knew you needed. To his left and right, a gentle soundtrack from Will Galloway and Kathryn Langshaw melts between subtle underscoring and feature songs, providing occasional breathing space for the narrative and deftly complementing Greenway’s sometimes frantic apexes and physicality.
It is a gripping multi-stranded adventure – though at times the complex, surreal narrative seems to lose track of itself, and there are a fair few convenient coincidences to forgive. This sense of the surreal heightens as the threads draw closer and closer together, the sense of the bizarre climbing with the increasing tension as the stories edge closer to their common goal.
This is a beautiful piece of ear food, a holiday into a more vivid, more opalescent version of a relatable reality – if one that sometimes requires a slight suspension of disbelief. Wil Greenway and his pals are delivering storytelling at its best. They succeed in not only guiding the audience through a world of their making, but imparting a way of seeing that we take with us out the door, back into the rain.