THERE are, psychologists tell us, at least five “stages of grief”, beginning with “denial” and ending with “acceptance”.

It seems hard to deny that the people of Scotland, like people throughout the world, are continuing to go through those stages as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The disease has ravaged our society. Some of us have lost people close to us, some of us have survived infection, some of us have grieved for a loved one who has died an isolated death as a consequence of essential coronavirus protocols.

Whatever our experience, every one of us has experienced, and continues to experience, the emotions that attend the collective trauma of the Covid crisis.

We may attempt, consciously or subconsciously, to repress those emotions, but we all experience them nonetheless, and we all require comfort and space to grieve.

READ MORE: Jo Clifford on seeking to bring some theatrical healing with The Covid Requiem

This, it seems to me, is the central premise of The Covid Requiem, a work of secular ritual conceived and performed by Jo Clifford and Lesley Orr, with original music written by Duncan Chisholm and Innes Watson, and performed by Patsy Reid and Watson himself.

Clifford is one of Scotland’s leading dramatists, whose work ranges from the tragic Inés de Castro (which has been staged both as a play and an opera) to the extraordinary The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven (a piece, performed by Clifford herself, that imagines Christ returning as a trans woman).

Orr is a historian, theologian and activist for gender and social justice. She is also a member of the Iona Community, which defines itself as “a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.”

Commissioned by Elizabeth Newman, artistic director of Pitlochry Festival Theatre, and directed by Amy Liptrott, Clifford and Orr take their audience in promenade through the beautiful gardens that sit adjacent to the Perthshire playhouse. They read for us texts of contemplation, simple testaments to individual people taken by the pandemic, and expressions of humour and, at the social and political level, of undeniable rage.

The National:

As they do so, Reid (on violin) and Watson (on acoustic guitar) play the beautiful, plaintive music that has been written for the piece. Standing very much in the Scottish musical tradition, their playing makes a gentle, yet compelling emotional connection with the words that are being spoken.

Early in our journey, Clifford and Orr invite us to choose a stone from those collected from the banks of the nearby River Tummel. The weight of that stone in our hand is, they suggest, like the burden of grief we carry.

By the end of the promenade, we are encouraged, should we wish, to place our stone on a commemorative cairn.

This ritual connects us with the burial traditions of the peoples who lived in Scotland as long as 5000 years ago.

There will, no doubt, be some who are resistant to the unashamedly sentimental aspect of The Covid Requiem. However, one suspects it is precisely part of the piece’s purpose to challenge the embarrassed, self-repressive silence that stands between us and the expression of grief.

As a performer, Clifford has the warm and welcoming intonation of a secular priest. Orr, for her part, has a style that is more conversational, yet equally sympathetic and engaging. They complement each other very well, drawing us ever closer to the poetic prose that they speak.

The short, Pitlochry run of this work has ended. However, Scotland has no shortage of beautiful locations in which people could gather to experience this moving requiem for the living and the dead.