Words: Evie Hylands (she/her)
When Mountains Meet, a wonderful showcase part of the Celtic Connections festival, was performed at Cottiers Theatre on the 25th and 26th of January. It was the story of a young woman named Anne Wood, who has Scottish/Pakistani heritage. She not only played the protagonist, but also composed and musically directed the production. Anne portrayed a heartfelt reflection of a younger version of herself and her emotional and often turbulent journey from Scotland to Pakistan to discover her estranged father.
Everything about the experience was immersive and provocative. It reminded me of the power live theatre can hold. It was unquestionably well received by the audience and one of the best pieces of culture fusion I have ever experienced. The atmosphere was instantaneous as we were welcomed to our seats with traditional Scottish music in divine accompaniment with Indian sitars and tanpuras. The vibrant, yet minimalist, set was perfectly paired with the talented and vivacious singers/storytellers, who managed to balance the weight of the story whilst maintaining the quick witted and humorous script. The audience were encouraged to join in with the songs and were exposed to parts of Pakistani culture that one may never have been able to fully appreciate without this welcoming insight. I felt touched by this immersivity, as it drew me closer to Anne’s story. We were also invited to enjoy some traditional Pakistani Kahwa tea, hold thousand-year-old rocks from the highlands, and build paper aeroplanes. The fluidity of the structure aligned with the themes of Anne’s inquisitive journey and her truly open-minded attitude whilst exploring her newfound relationship with her father.
The challenges Anne faced in her story contrasted to the open nature of both her and the structure of the show. At times Anne often felt repressed and was told that she brought shame to the family name, as she was a child born out of wedlock. The plot explored the difficulties experienced amongst her family, whilst also giving insight into the contrast between Pakistani and Western culture. Anne is an extraordinarily strong female protagonist who manages to form a resolution and reminds the audience that it is always better to forgive, choose love over conflict.
Though the heart wrenching plot pretty much carries itself, I cannot stress enough how much I loved the musical elements. They truly transformed the story. What was even more powerful, is that Anne uses music to enhance the experience of the show, whilst relaying to the audience that her career as a musician was frowned upon in her family, and was a taboo subject for them. Many original songs were used, with the beautiful blend of both Scottish and Pakistani traditions coming together resulting in an incredibly well fused experience.
Each storyteller played many characters, reiterating Anne’s key ideology of oneness with the self. The cyclical aspects made the story feel less stilted and more relatable on a personal level. My personal favourite storyteller was Jason Patel; someone who truly knew how to take control of a room. He was totally engaging and a fantastically trained artist. The musical fusion helped to join the landscapes of Scotland and Pakistan onto the same plane, highlighting the parallels between the highlands and the Himalayas. It was a real insight into how Anne felt about the connection between the homelands, as well as between herself and the earth. It was an overall fantastic experience, a thoroughly well produced show that has clearly required a lot of hard work in the making, resulting in an absolutely captivating and fantastic watch. When Mountains Meet showcased new traditions, delicious tea, and a story that truly made us laugh, cry, and want to seize the day whilst also learning the power of forgiveness. The musicians, singers and actors performed to the audience with their hearts open, and we were truly connected in one space. With this in mind, Anne Wood is one to look out for.