ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Planning our work

Now that I'm able to plan things in a little more detail, I've had another discussion with Chris Spears about the use of Berneray Community Hall in May. We're trying to arrive at a fee for hiring the space for a week. The hall committee meet in a few weeks time, and I hope that we can come to some agreement at that time.

Berneray map: Wikitravel Image Repository Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0.
The hall is at Borve (Borgh) to the NNE of Loch Bhuirgh, numbered 3 on the map above (if you can read it), and Chris lives on the edge of the Loch. Everything is very close by, a short walk away, and it may well be that when we get to having visitors they will stay at the hostel at East Beach (no.6).

The plan is that I travel up and work with Chris to create a rough version of the set, accompanied by Loz Kaye, the Musical Director on the production, who will work with musicians from Lews Castle College Learning Centre on Benbecula. By the end of the week we will be joined by other artists and performers working on the show - Alison Duddle, my colleague and co-director at Horse + Bamboo Theatre; Mark Whitaker, a puppeteer who we hope will be in the final show; and Joanne B Kaar, who will be making the woven costumes and other performing objects for the production. We'll have some of the masks and puppets to work with; possibly even some film material, so we should be able to achieve a lot in a few days of workshopping. 

View across to Berneray harbour; with seals. 
We could easily do this work at our base in Lancashire but it makes real sense to do it on the islands. First it will introduce some our cast to the Outer Hebrides; it will also be far easier for Chris, who lives on Berneray and Joanne, who lives way north on the mainland (near Dunnet by Thurso in Caithness), and the musicians, to meet up with the rest of us here. 

Most importantly we're able to cross the various causeways and visit the place on North Uist where Angus was born and lived until he went away to fight in the Second World War (and, of course, to where he returned after 50 years away). 

Finally I want the set to have a strongly organic feel - not to be a rigid structure of painted theatre flats and screens, but to use local materials to help create a framework where wires or ropes tensioned by heavy rocks can support cloth screens. This will take experiment and probably some  beach-combing, but it's certainly something best done in this island environment. 

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