Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

Five women emerge from the blackness of Jamie Vartan's panoramic staging at the start of Lu Kemp's revival of Sue Glover's 1991 play, each dragging a wooden crate attached to a rope behind them. Resembling a quintet of Mother Courages, this is just one of many powerful images in Glover's brutal and unsentimental study of life across the seasons for six women working the land in 19th-century rural Scotland.

Hired by the gentry and paid a pittance, youngsters Liza and Jenny line up alongside Sara and her teenage daughter Tottie.

Maggie works alongside them in between tending to her bairns, while ex-bondager Ellen occasionally loosens her corset and comes down from the big house she married into.

All have yearnings, be it for Canada or a local farm-hand, and when work turns to play, Tottie's tragedy is inevitable.

After more than a decade without a production on home soil, one of the most striking things about Bondagers is just how ground-breaking the play's fusion of rich poetic text, striking physicality and a rhythmic musicality remains.

Yet so connected are its mixture of forms and styles in Kemp's rendering of the play that it never draws attention to them, even as Michael John Mccarthy's score seems to whisper from the land itself.

Among six dynamic performances, Cath Whitefield gives a heart-rending turn as Tottie, here more a free spirit without any social buffers to contain her than a one-dimensional daftie.

Tottie is the play's heart, in which something deeply and profoundly primal is going on. This speaks volumes about how both women and the environment to which they tend can be violated by men's hands.