The unassuming Christopher Harrisson welcomes his audience warmly to Summerhall. A slight smell permeates the old lecture hall as we clamber into the aisles, and there is a distinct feeling that we have entered into a realm haunted by the past, and the knowledge of what is to come. Our surroundings have already stripped us of comfort and familiarity by the time Harrisson begins; the bustling brightness of the Summerhall courtyard passed through only moments before already a distant memory. A stunningly immersive world opens before us, as Harrisson leads our imaginations down a dark and twisted path.
The North! The North! is a myth of staggering beauty and depthless horror. Inspired by the likes of Beowulf and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Harrisson imagines and singularly evokes a world in which the North and South of England have been split by a vast chasm. His protagonist voyages from the pulsating, sweaty ecstasy of a city club to a land inhabited by monsters and family tragedy, where he encounters a one armed man on the road, bound by glorious purpose. Harrisson makes spectacular use of his environment as haunting projections appear before us, never distracting from the story unfolding, only enhancing it.
Harrisson’s physicality is mesmerising: the once unassuming man shifts seamlessly from character to character, from menace to vulnerability, provoking sympathy, revulsion, belly laughs, distress, tension, hatred and sorrow at will with complete authenticity. His attention to detail is meticulous, and the difference between what is shown onstage, what is implied and what is described blurs. As clear as the malevolence on the Prince’s face, we can see the chasm. We can hear the wind. We can taste the kebab.
Intelligent, exhilarating, strikingly original and moving, I cannot recommend this play enough – along with the accompanying comic available from the Summerhall shop.
Words: Fraser MacIntyre
The North! The North!, Summerhall, Aug 15-27, 5.50pm