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....

Saturday, 11 August 2012

At The SSC

In three days time the touring company, Mairi, Frances, Jonny, and Mark, will reassemble after a well deserved week-long break and travel to Edinburgh where Angus - Weaver of Grass will open at 4pm on Thursday 16th at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Once there they will give 10 performances, finishing on Sunday the 26th. 

Horse + Bamboo formed in 1978 and has been touring shows since that time, but we've never yet performed at the Edinburgh Festival. So this is a first for us, and it's going to be an interesting experience. One of the reasons we've never performed at the Festival is that it's very difficult to find the right venue. Anyone who thinks that touring is just a matter of sticking a few props and screens on the stage, opening the doors and then stepping out from behind a curtain and acting away is sadly misinformed. Each show we put on takes between 4 and 5 hours to unload and assemble the set and props, including the lights, projectors and sound equipment. After that it's sensible for the performers to have a minimum of an hours break before they perform; an hour in which they relax and focus their attention in preparation for the performance. So we usually ask the venue for an absolute minimum of 5 hours to 'get-in'.

In Edinburgh at Festival time, even at a professional, well-equipped, and understanding venue like the Scottish Storytelling Centre, you get an hour and a half. This is because they put on four shows by four different companies each day, and each company has to install their own show afresh for each performance. I've heard of venues that allow you just 15 minutes. Of course at the SSC we can have most of our lights already rigged and focused, and some of the screens (I hope) can be hidden behind the SSCs stage curtains - but for us anyway an hour and a half is going to be a tough ask. I guess it is for most theatre companies, but Angus is highly technical, with a load of puppets, masks, props, projectors'll get the picture if and when you see it. 

There's also the issue that the depth of the stage at the SSC is about 60cms short of what we need to project the video images at the right size. Touring around venues is always a matter of compromise on something - blackout, acoustics, lack of curtains, changing rooms, even having a stage at all can be a luxury - so having a stage-depth problem is par for the course. But it's going to create some problems for us. Fortunately the SSC have given us a technical day before the show opens to sort this, and any other problems out. 

We're going to be helped enormously in this by Christina Eddowes, who works as part of the arts team at H+B as a creative technician. Chris has been preparing for these problems all of last week, and will be going to Edinburgh for the duration in order to support the performers. As I say, it's going to be an interesting experience.....

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