REVIEW: Joanna Wallfisch – The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle at The Space, Surgeon’s Hall (Edinburgh Fringe)

Joanna Wallfisch at Big Sur in 2016
Publicity picture

Joanna Wallfisch – The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle
(The Space, Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh. Festival Fringe. Review by Mark McKergow)

Joanna Wallfisch brings her beautiful voice and multi-instrumental talents to the Edinburgh fringe with her performance about cycling over a thousand miles along the west coast of America. The result is an intense, focused and reflective collection of songs, images and evocation of moments in time.

Wallfisch’s latest album Blood and Bone was also on the theme of journeying, but this show features new material alongside the jaunty song Road Trip. Using a collection of portable instruments and a looping pedal, she quickly and skilfully builds backgrounds and textures which support the songs and also provide intermission sounds. The opening When We Travel sets the scene perfectly – Wallfisch’s journeys are always mental as well as literal and she succeeds in drawing us in to her endeavour to travel from Portland, Oregon, to Los Angeles on her bicycle not simply to arrive but rather to travel hopefully.

Joanna Wallfisch has an outstandingly beautiful voice – pure of tone and lithe of spirit. Her songs build from patterns, often using ukulele and voice as a starting point, ebbing and flowing like the Pacific tides. Her imagery is enchanting – whales and dolphins on the coast, a moustachioed man and his son at a campsite, a lifeguard in a truck with some unusual cargo… each of these leads to a song, with some unexpected accompaniments on stage from melodica, a toy piano, whistling, and a really juicy kazoo solo on Rex The Travelling Dog.

As the 50-minute show comes towards a close with the haunting Final Flight, we all arrive together at… well, not the end. You’ll have to go see it to find out. Joanna Wallfisch’s show is a reflective, haunting and sustained performance, a very personal take on the outdoors which brings an unexpectedly quirky part of California to the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle is at The Space, Surgeon’s Hall at 12.05pm until 18 August 2018, and again at The Space Triplex at 8.35pm from 20-15 August 2018. 

LINKS: The Great Song Cycle Song Cycle at the Edinburgh Fringe website (BOOKINGS)
Review of Joanna Wallfisch’s Blood And Bone CD 
Review of Joanna Wallfisch at Sofar Sounds
Interview from 2016 after the 1147-mile bike ride

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