Drama – Horse & Bamboo Theatre in Angus – Weaver of Grass,
Mon 10th Sep. 8pm. 75 mins. no int. age 10+
This company's ethos owes something to the tradition of the travelling players of Medieval Europe, and in that sense is informed by a tradition deeper than theatre itself. We remember their last visit to Lyth 17 years ago, when they travelled to each venue by horse-and-cart and cooked their meals outdoors over an open fire! However their work has always been radically contemporary, with use of up-to-the-minute technology and innovative approaches to story-telling.
Horse + Bamboo make visual theatre in which music and story-telling play a central role. The company concentrates on developing a language that is primarily non-verbal, using puppets, film, movement and elaborately designed sets in a way that transcends the spoken word. Particularly noteworthy is their distinctive use of full-head masks which has been a feature of their work from the beginning.
Their latest production is the story of Angus MacPhee . Affected by schizophrenia during World War II, Angus spent 50 years in Craig Dunain Psychiatric Hospital. During this time he remained entirely mute.
Decades earlier as a boy growing up in South Uist he had learned to make harnesses from the marram-grass that grew about the island. As an inmate in the hospital he returned to this craft, using the grasses that grew in the hospital grounds to weave countless artefacts – garments, hats, pouches and harnesses. When he had finished each one he threw it away or hid it under a bush.
It has been suggested that weaving was a way of finding his way back to health by using traditional craft skills and developing them into a unique form of expression. Angus, however, remained silent until his death in 1997; his astonishing story continues to be a source of inspiration, wonder and mystery.
The production features Gaelic songs sung by Mairi Morrison and grass costumes made by Caithness artist Joanne B. Kaar in accordance with MacPhee's own techniques. It combines film and animation with images and sounds of the Outer Hebrides to create a complex, subtle and sympathetic portrait of a remarkable man.
Praise for Angus – Weaver of Grass:
Two quotes from a review of the performance on the 19th July, Ullapool, on the Northings Website :
"If you see one piece of theatre this year, see this. It is a compassionate performance … this is not just a story about suffering, it's about dignity and the healing power of art."
"Horse + Bamboo have done a great job, with sensitivity, humour and creativity. Everyone we knew in the audience was deeply moved by the work, and the Gaelic/English narration was excellent."