Review by Carol Little
Hedgerow members are storyteller Alan Buchanan, singer-songwriter Alan Rankin, and musicians Perry Williams and Brad Fremlin. The Hedgerow performance is described by Buchanan as “a trip through the fields and hedgerows along island roads”. Buchanan goes on to describe storytelling in general as organic, having grown naturally out of the ground, and states that we are all innate storytellers.
The show is a tribute to the oral ritual of passing down knowledge and history through animated narrative accounts of events and incorporates old-time traditional storytelling by Alan Buchanan intertwined and complemented by songs, all but one written by Alan Rankin, performed by Rankin, Williams and Fremlin. Rankin’s heartfelt voice and songs added to the warmth and maritime flavour of an evening of tales of days gone by that touches on subjects as diverse to Island life and culture as immigration, settlement, family, sex, drinking, and the Northumberland Strait ferry/bridge debates of old, portraying island stereotypes and generally celebrating the Island way of life.
The overall atmosphere of the evening promoted a sense that the audience should either be huddled around a campfire hearing the tales spun by a cousin or uncle, or sunk deep into the folds of an armchair by a fire on a winter’s eve, and in that sense could have benefited from a more intimate setting, possibly even a centered stage with spectators gathered around the storytellers. Still, the men sat on kitchen chairs and the stage was decorated with the idea of a country kitchen homestead depicted by a fireplace, rocking chair, books on an end table and a glass of milk, complete with a Prince Edward Island scenic painting on each side of the stage.
Throughout the evening, I was reminded of Seth’s recent graphic novel Bannock, Beans and Black Tea, which touchingly chronicles his father John Gallant’s coming of age in Souris, Prince Edward Island.
In these fast paced, digital times, the traditional art of storytelling is too often lost along with family lore and history. While the performance could have benefited from more direct character acting, usage of props and unique stories, I nonetheless found it refreshing to see a show rooted in family tradition and expect that tourists will take as much delight out of the portrayal of our cultural heritage, as native Islanders will.