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, 15 January 2012

The Joys of Rethinking

One of the joys of having time to rework a script is the moment of awareness when one recognises that an idea was, in fact, bound by a previously unrecognised convention. 

Until the past week it never occurred to me that in imagining Angus's work I had somehow slipped into thinking of it almost wholly in terms of the pieces rescued by Joyce Laing; those pieces I had seen in her collection in Pittenweem. 

Then, in discussion with Alison, we realised that both Joyce herself, and Roger Hutchinson in 'The Silent Weaver' describe some of the exotic costumes that were reported to them by the staff at Craig Dunain. Weavings long lost, but extravagant pieces that sound as if the larger pieces still owned by Joyce (above) were simply sketches for bigger ideas. 

In The Silent Weaver, the farm manager at the hospital farm, Jock MacKay, is quoted "He (Angus) made a cap, you know, like a captain on a ship, and he made a coat, a swallow-tail coat..." Robert Poulson, a gardener at Craig Dunain, remembers "He wore his own hats most of the time...sometimes a straw fore-and-aft..." and Joyce herself quotes a nurse saying that once he made an 'opera coat'.

So I rewrote a scene where Angus appears in such a get-up; representing a climax of his time weaving at the hospital, and showing Angus almost as if he were appearing in a theatre production of his own devising, whereas in the earlier script the weavings themselves had been relegated to the role of mere props in his workshop garden. 

I sent off an email to Joanne B Kaar, outlining the idea, and worried that it might be a step too far for her - as so far she has, heroically, taken on the enormous job of replicating works by Angus that we can see today. Would this prove to be too much of a challenge - to re-imagine some of his most inventive pieces? Not at all, Joanne replied immediately - "Exciting, yes! Swallow-tail and sun-burst hat are now whirling around my head."

No comments:

Post a Comment