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, 30 March 2013

Oidhche Challuinn

Of all the scenes in 'Angus - Weaver of Grass' that we researched, probably the most difficult to find information on was the Oidhche Challuinn

From the Silconglan website: "Described as the Eve of New Year's Day (it) was of supreme importance in the Highlands and Islands of the West and took precedence even over Christmas. It was a time of much ceremony and gaiety, but underneath the levity lies a sinister hint of the old ritual and sacrificial nature of the festival. The Eve of New Year was known as Oidhche Challuinn, and New Year's Day as La Challuinn.......Up to the beginning of the century at least, the festivities of New Year's Eve were fully in operation and people went round the houses....chanting special rhymes continuously.......The part of the hide used was the loose flap of the beasts neck; this was called in Gaelic caisean-uchd. This they used to singe in the fire and present it to the members of the family, each in turn; every member of the household was required to smell it as a charm against all things evil and harmful."

In our show the burning caisean-uchd was held over Angus, then about to go off to war, and it flickered as if to be extinguished. His friends blow at it and revive the smouldering sheepskin. I intended it as a kind of presentiment of what was about to befall Angus.

Anyway, looking at the Island of Berneray Community website I found the photograph above and a brief description of the events that took place this year on January 12th, using painted cardboard box masks.

Friday, 29 March 2013

More auditions

We've now set up auditions for the second replacement for 'Angus - Weaver  of Grass' in 2013. This time for the singer and narrator, which means a fluent Gaelic speaker to replace Mairi Morrison, who has other commitments this year that prevent her from touring in the late summer. 

Just as with the other female role that we need this year the details of our requirements, and an application form can be found at . The closing date is April the 24th, and auditions will be in Glasgow on May 3rd....

Friday, 15 March 2013


The process of replacing Frances Merriman for the 2013 tour of 'Angus' has started. After a day of drafting out details and deciding on an audition date, I've posted these on our new website for anyone interested to read and, if they wish, follow up with an application. 

The details can be found on this page -

It's a complex role. Fran played Angus's sister Peigi (above), and also Angus himself as a young teenager; both roles in masks. The replacement of course needs to be physically suited to both these roles. In addition Fran played an important part in the many puppetry scenes, and we need someone with a high level of skill in this area. Finally it's through the interventions of the puppeteers/performers that the story unfolds, so the role also demands stage presence and narrative awareness. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

New tour; new plans

Preparations for a second tour of Angus - Weaver of Grass continue, as Esther begins to fit the itinerary jigsaw together. Roughly a month in Scotland, and a month in England, I believe. Organising the travel so the amount of criss-crossing of countries is kept to a minimum; let alone all the business with ferry time-tables. I'm told that there will be several islands on the schedule again this year - Islay and Muck were mentioned, but as yet I don't know much about the shape of things. Wise to leave it in Esther's capable hands at this point. 

The big change, sadly, will be in the cast. Frances Merriman (above, front left) isn't able to tour this year, as her academic commitments as a final year student at Aberystwyth mean she simply isn't able to tour well into October, as we require. Mairi Morrison (front right) too, has had to leave the cast due to other commitments. Both gave amazing performances last year and will be much missed. 

So the job of auditioning for replacements is also being planned. It will be a difficult job to replace such special performers, as both Fran and Mairi contributed in very distinctive and special ways. Finding people with the same, or even similar, skills won't be easy, but this isn't the first time we've been faced with the problem of recasting performers, in fact it goes with the territory. I'm optimistic that we'll have a new team in place in May - ready for rehearsals in August.