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....

Friday, 23 August 2013

A short visit to Edinburgh

Edinburgh from the Grassmarket

Back from a brief visit to Edinburgh to see Angus - Weaver of Grass at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, at Netherbow on the Royal Mile. The city on the first day was incredibly hot and sultry, and on the next it had an odd and persistent mist hanging in the air, somehow making the castle even more the looming presence over the city.  

After the wonderful opening last Friday at the Boo (see previous post) I approached the Edinburgh show with some nervousness. The Storytelling Centre is in most ways the perfect venue - central, well-appointed, and with a genuinely welcoming feel to the whole place. But we know from last year (when we also performed Angus at this venue) that the stage is very, very cramped for our particular show. The performers have less than a metre backstage to change in, squeeze by one another on the way to coming on-stage, plus store the many props, masks, puppets and costumes. The depth of the stage also means that our projectors have to be placed 60 or 70 centimetres nearer to the set than we need, so they are both more oblique to the stage screens, and the image projected is smaller, so it doesn't properly cover the stage. The third issue is that we can't use our own lights and sound because of the same lack of space and, alongside necessarily restricted time to set up, the focusing of the house lights and balancing of sound can create serious problems for such a visual show. 

For me, the director, the first show I saw was spoiled by just these problems. The cast did really well, but the technical issues meant the piece only partially worked - it 'fired on three cylinders' I told the performers afterwards. It's worth saying that the audience appeared to appreciate it as much as ever, and this was born out by the writings left in the Comments Book left in the lobby of the ST Centre.

Our set in the Netherbow Theatre, Scottish Storytelling Centre

After the show there was time to give notes and feedback to the performers, and we planned that I arrive during the next day's setting up period and that we tried to find time (difficult with just a short changeover) to look again at the sound settings. This we did - finding just 25 minutes to alter various settings. 

The show that followed was wonderful. I'm so impressed by Jonny, Jordanna, Mark and Mel - taking all this in their stride with good humour, and then delivering an immaculate 75 minute performance! 

One comment left for us:

"I never cried watching a show before, and I never felt life so close to me" 

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