Woman Walking 

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles 

Four stars 

 Taking a walk is so much more than getting away for the day for Cath, the woman at the heart of Sylvia Dow’s new play, currently touring the country in a production by Sylvian Productions. Cath isn’t so much on the run, but is trying to find herself again following the death of her mother.  
What Cath gets as she embarks on her journey is an accidental dialogue with Nan Shepherd, the long deceased real life author of The Living Mountain, the book that when it was eventually published several decades after Shepherd wrote it, became a classic of nature writing. By conjuring Shepherd up as her guru and guide, Cath’s thoroughly modern sensibilities are challenged, even as she too embraces the poetry of the great outdoors as a kind of wide open sanctuary.

The result in Dow’s own creation is a dramatic meditation on the need for solitude and space in order to purge old demons and find a sense of freedom and renewal. Becky Hope-Palmer’s production brings this to life in an intimate affair set on Karen Tennent’s brightly painted platformed set that evoke an entire world where two women find common ground across the generations.  
As Cath, Pauline Lockhart brings out a humour beyond the grim determination of a woman reclaiming herself, while Fletcher Mathers brings a stately wisdom to Nan, both as a spectral figure and a surrogate mother to Cath. This is underscored by the nuances of Philip Pinsky’s cracked electronic soundscape, which includes a new song, with Dow’s lyrics sung beautifully by Catherine Ireton.  

All this merges over the play’s sixty-five minute duration to becomes an intimate exploration of the relationship between the inner and outer self in everyday life, and how easy it is to get lost en route to somewhere else. As Cath finds her way home, however, she learns that, whatever the climate, she’ll never truly walk alone.