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 July 2012

A special show on a special day

Yesterday, in my mind at least, was the biggest test for 'Angus'. We were on Benecula at the Lionacleit Community School (above), and playing two shows in front of an audience that was likely to be our first made up of a majority of Gaelic speakers. But by far my biggest anxiety was that several members of Angus Macphee's family would attend. This is very close by to Iochdar where Angus was brought up, and of course I hoped that the family in particular would feel that we have depicted Angus and his life with sensitivity and honesty.

The matinee passed off smoothly enough - 26 people on a bright afternoon is a good-sized audience hereabouts, and Mary Schmoller of CEOLAS reacted very positively to the show. Then the evening came and Iain Campbell, Angus's nephew arrived with a group of 6 or 7 relatives. Iain has always been very kind and helpful to me, but I was aware that the family has, in the past, been concerned at some depictions of Angus and I was particularly hoping that he would have a positive reaction to the show.

The show itself was good; and a packed theatre. Not without a few small technical hiccups, but well balanced and strong. It was good to feel Mairi's Gaelic and the local references in the story coming home, with small shivers running through the audience as details were recognised. The applause was heartfelt, and a large proportion took up Mark's offer at the end to stay around and discuss the show, and have a close look at the masks and puppets.

Eventually Iain came over to me. I could tell by his expression that he was happy, but in the event he was glowingly positive about the show. I met a succession of other relatives, all of whom knew Angus, and each of them added their congratulations and their anecdotes - about how well we had captured this or that; how accurately Fran portrayed Peigi, or how delighted they were by our version of Angus's life.

Other people joined in with their appreciation; Mary McInnes of Iochdar School - someone who had helped point me in the right direction several times in the development of the piece - made a short speech thanking the company. The set was admired, as were the puppets, the singing, the masks...

A truly memorable evening, and one of which the company should be proud. Today the cast have been invited by Angus's family to visit them at the family home in Balgarva, where they will be shown the large rock on the beach where, many years ago, Angus carved his initials...

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