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....

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Chris arrives - and the question of accuracy.

The Horse + Bamboo workshop continues to be full of people helping us with the final stages of making for Angus - in the main working to help Alison finish her mountain of carved hand, glove and string puppets. Alison is doing most of the carving herself, but pieces are being sanded, strung, assembled and then, finally, dressed by a small army of helpers. 

Yesterday Chris Spears joined us from Berneray, having travelled down from the Outer Isles on Monday. He helped me yesterday, improving on a small painted set of peat-moss or bla'r moine, and puppet racing horses for the Odaidh. Today he joined the group helping Alison. Lizzie Lempen of Lempen Puppet Theatre is also helping us for a couple of days.

The question of accuracy occurs frequently. For example in the Oidhche Challaig (New Year) section we need a caisein-uchd, a smouldering sheep-skin torch, but no-one, including Chris, has ever seen one. So some guess work has to take place. How far to go in the search is often an issue - especially when the scene is light-hearted, as with the above examples. But wherever  possible we use contemporary sources for information - so above (top) we see Christina making a horse-drawn cart, using period photographs by Margaret Fay Shaw as a source, while (lower image) Chris Spears is using a 1934 photograph by Werner Kissling as a model for panniers, or cliabh.

Finally Debby Waldron of BBC Alba emailed to discuss coming down during the rehearsal period to film us in advance of the tour, so they have some footage available for An Là, the Gaelic news broadcast. We are very happy to oblige.

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