City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Angus: Weaver of Grass Review


By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 18 August 2012

4
Show details
Company: 
Horse+Bamboo
Running time: 
75mins
Production: 
Bob Frith (writer, director, designer), Alison Duddle (puppet director), Loz Kaye (musical director), Esther Ferry-Kennington (producer)
Performers: 
Frances Merriman, Mairi Morrison, Jonny Quick, Mark Whitaker

Angus: Weaver of Grass tells its story using a range of media to convey a sense of time and place. Both of these are important to a tale of a remarkable artist and human being.

Angus Macphee was born on South Uist in 1915. In 1939 he joined the Lovat Scouts, and, stationed in Faroe Islands, experienced schizophrenic episodes and was detained in Craig Dunain Hospital in Inverness for the following 50 years.

That bare biography leaves out his artistic work (and possibly self-therapy) weaving grass into hats, coats and other garments.

Among the islands, certainly in the first half of the twentieth century, time was more plentiful than money and people would weave from grass what they couldn’t afford or obtain easily.

With time on his hands in Craig Dunain, Angus found grass weaving probably a means of passing time and a form of therapeutic activity. Discovered by the art therapist Joyce Laing, numerous examples of Angus’ work now hang in the Collection de l’Art Brut in Switzerland.

Horse+Bamboo make use of animation, puppetry, song and a range of theatrical techniques to tell Angus’ story. Much is narrated in Gaelic, although even for someone with very little or no Gaelic, the main narrative is easily followed. In the context of the Edinburgh Fringe, however, with audiences from mostly non-Gaelic speaking backgrounds, there is a rich irony here, as we experience something of the environment Angus Macphee would have at Craig Dunain. A native Gaelic speaker in an English-speaking institution, his retreat into a silent world of creation seems an eminently sensible move.

The cast of four work very effectively together, creating an atmospheric and convincing theatrical environment for their story. Horse+Bamboo have succeeded in making a piece of theatre that is very much of its place and of its specific history. Mental illness has yet to have its history fully explored or explained, and the experience of particular communities within this is largely unrecorded. Horse+Bamboo deserves proper recognition for their remarkable achievement.

Show Times:17-26 August, 4:00pm

Ticket Prices: £10 (£8)

Music, puppetry, and mask combine for a visual and voiced spectacle, as a story book comes to life before your eyes as we traverse the life of Angus MacPhee through carefree boyhood days to the aftermath of war. Spellbinding stuff.