Page last updated at 01:40 GMT, Saturday, 15 August 2009 02:40 UK

Magical dream on mystery island

By Angie Brown
Edinburgh reporter, BBC Scotland news website

The audience were taken from Edinburgh to Inchcolm island for the show
The audience were taken from Edinburgh to Inchcolm island for the show

I am still wondering if maybe I fell down a long and tumbling tunnel after seeing a rabbit at the start of my Fringe adventure to Cotrone's mystery island.

It had looked like it was beckoning me to follow it, before hopping off.

The next thing I knew the bus was pulling up at the Forth Belle ready to board for Inchcolm Island, which lies between Edinburgh and Fife.

Maybe I had dozed off in the bus and the rabbit had just been a dream, I wasn't sure.

Enchanting and soothing music was playing out of the small ferry's loud speakers as I watched seabirds fly alongside and as Edinburgh's coastline merged into one big line I wondered if again I had fallen into a deep slumber.

It is much more important that people enjoy the show than understand dialogue, I don't want to represent reality, I want it to be a theatrical reality
Andrea Cusumano
The Bitter Belief of Cotrone the Magician

Cotrone was a mysterious man, I was being told on the loud speaker, a sorcerer who arrived on the uninhabited isle in 1965 and if we looked hard enough we "might see him".

As we neared the craggy outcrop, which was being circled by almost menacing seagulls, I wondered if I wanted to step off from the safety of the boat into this other place.

However, the sight of the island's 12th Century abbey soon brought me to my senses again, and I drifted with the rest of the audience to my straw bale of a seat amid the stone ruins.

Cotrone appeared as if by magic from behind a stone wall, draped in a black cloak, wearing a white mask and shuffled towards us while leaning on his staff.

I prayed this terrifying grey-haired Italian recluse with a mouth-organ and a skeleton inside his cloak would not come too close to me and thankfully, as often happens in a dream, he did not actually quite reach me.

Small Tommy - one of the characters on Cotrone's Island
Small Tommy is one of the strange characters on the island

At this safe distance I was lulled once again by his most enchanting singing and there was that music again, which had been played on the boat.

A cacophony of strange sounds was coming from the four man live band who were to my left and Cotrone broke in to an eerie whistling tune.

Then, from nowhere, a band of strange creatures began walking in a large circle around us.

Cotrone kept conjuring up more and more bizarre fantasies, a minstrel with a bird cage on his head, a chained-up odd red woollen-haired clown-like character with a feather in his mouth and a naked android-like woman.

I was not scared by these weird creatures as it was more of a Lewis Carroll world of strange and fun characters than anything threatening.

I was in such a surreal landscape, the sky full of gull cries, all against such an imposing backdrop, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming.

I asked 49-year-old Bill Findlay, a corporate planning officer from Dundee sitting beside me, about his opinion of the show to make sure I had not imagined it all.

He said: "I found it so moving, but I couldn't say why.

"There was fantastic costume, music and the birds made it, it was as if they were part of the show somehow."

As we walked back to the boat, which was waiting to whisk us back to reality I asked Jan Moore, 76, from Chicago, what she thought she had seen.

"It was fascinating as is the setting, it's an amazing place. It didn't seem to have a plot line but the scenery brought it together."

Cotrone and the Countess
Cotrone and the Countess take a bow

Barbara Bryant, 47, from Boston, Massachusetts, said: "I loved it. It reminded me of Prospero, the magician on his island who could make spirits appear. There were lots of theatre themes, players come, and are they really suffering?"

So when I bumped into Sicilian artist and director Andrea Cusumano, who also plays Cotrone, during the boat ride from the island, I had to ask him about what I had just seen.

He said: "Luigi Pirendello's The Giants of The Mountains, from which the show is based, describes Cotrone's house in a very indefinable way, as if it is between dream and reality.

"We devised things together and took the personality from the characters.

"It is much more important that people enjoy the show than understand dialogue. I don't want to represent reality. I want it to be a theatrical reality.

"I speak between English and Italian as I want to keep that duality so that the public cannot follow the story.

"It is emotional because of the beauty of the island, the humour, the grotesque and the very strong visual costume.

"The decision to do the show on an island was not just a special effect.

"What we were trying to do is immerse the public into a dream as if they had fallen asleep and weren't sure whether or not they had really been on the island and seen the things they had seen."

So, as the bus came to a shuddering halt on Waverley Bridge, I wondered if it really had been all a dream.

I am not sure but one thing I do know is, unlike a dream which is usually forgotten within moments of waking up, I will remember The Bitter Belief of Cotrone the Magician for a long time.

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