Colourful Heritage: When Mountains Meet
A Blog by Dr. Saqib Razzaq, Project Officer, Colourful Heritage
‘When Mountains Meet’ is the fascinating story of Scottish musician and composer Anne Woods connecting for the first time with her Pakistani father and new family in Pakistan during her mid-twenties. She bravely sets out to further explore her identity and sense of belonging to a country, she longed to be part of.
It is uniquely told by the powerful medium of storytelling, incorporating specially composed pieces of fusion music that pulls at the heart's strings combined with visual imagery to show the cross cultural connection.
From the moment I stepped into the theatre, I knew I was in for an amazing treat! Everything shouted out that this would be a theatrical drama experience like no other. From the set featuring huge coloured fabric mountains and sparkling lights to the Scottish-South Asian fusion music which played as you walked in to be seated. There were many clusters of small bistro tables and chairs adorned with a variety of colourful teacups and saucers to give everyone that feeling you were going to intimately share this experience with your neighbouring guests who no longer felt like strangers.
The set was an explosion of vibrant bright colours and shapes with huge fabric mountains which reminded me of the Pakistani Truck Art and the black, gold and mirrored velvet waistcoat worn by one of the musicians took me right back to my childhood days when my Nano (Gran) from Pakistan would send me traditional clothes to wear on special occasions.
The show started with a musical ensemble featuring the multi-talented Anne herself playing the violin. All this even before the talented cast of storytellers and singers, each playing Anne & her father’s character in turn burst onto the stage. Their brightly blue and multi- coloured outfits reminded me of the sunny blue skies and multi-coloured buildings and sites of Pakistan. The stones gave a sense of both Anne and her father's powerful personalities similar to the mountain ranges in their respective countries filled with their own unique heritage.
The audience was invited to pick up a stone from the table and feel the heritage within along with the power and majesty of the Scottish Highlands – home to Anne and the commonality these mountains have bearing witness to history as do the Himalayan mountains in Pakistan – home to her father. We were then given the super-fast challenge to make a paper plane to signify Anne's travel to and within Pakistan along with immersing ourselves in the taste and smell of Kashmir by relaxing with freshly brewed and fragrant Kashmiri Chai which helped warm the hearts to the majestic beauty and splendour of the Himalayan range.
The performance itself takes you through the sounds and sights of Pakistan from the bumpy drive home from the airport to the architecture in walled Lahore city and beyond. It gently reminds us of the impact of partition and its consequences as it includes a vivid encounter of her father, feeling rather vulnerable and scared whilst crossing the border with her to India, connecting with his own heritage and visiting his childhood home in Lucknow. By the end of the performance, Anne's story compassionately highlights the warmth and welcome that she experienced in Pakistan from its people and places and how she successfully connected with her newfound Father.
Her story is cleverly portrayed with the use of fusion music created by a multitude of instruments which the talented Anne Wood plays herself along with the other super-talented musicians playing the sitar, electric harp, and percussion instruments. The sounds of the instruments and music were seamlessly woven together with images of both Scotland & Pakistan to create an amazing tapestry of cultures from the East & West.
The music and songs helped the audience to understand her roller coaster of emotions and conflicts she faced with her father along the way as she explores her newfound heritage and family and is challenged with her hybrid identity. The imagery helped showcase the common beauty and splendour of Pakistan & Scotland. She finds deep comfort in the fact that both the majestic mountains of the Highlands and the Himalayas have a deep connection with both Anne and her father in witnessing history and remembers her mother’s precious advice: 'Stand as tall as a mountain and always be true to yourself'.
Overall a vibrant, powerful, and immersive experience with rich layering of stories and drama created by the diverse production and creative teams. The whole performance was underpinned by fusion music composed and performed by Anne Woods herself, along with her super-talented musicians. A performance not to be missed that is supercharged with cross-cultural music, song, and dance and gives the whole audience an immersive experience like no other with every sensory function awakened!