Friday 22 November 2013

Thank You, Edinburgh Makars and The Brunton Theatre :-)

Eoin Carey Photography

I wanted to make a big shout-out to a company without whom our actors might have been woefully under-dressed...

This Edinburgh company has a long-standing reputation for staging great drama, and we were fortunate enough to delve into their wardrobe of treasures to help us back to 1918. Thank you Jo, for your patience and generosity! I hope one day we can return the favour, or pay it forward!

Also, a big Thank you to Ian Curtis and all at The Brunton Theatre for being of such huge help in ready-ing us for touring - massively appreciated :-)

Thursday 21 November 2013

The beauty of Clashnessie, and more besides....

Hello again!

Sorry I've been away from this for aaaaaages. I was in London for a few days, hence the blogging silence...but I'm back home in Edinburgh and it's looking stunning in the winter sun! Now, where was I? Oh yes! Lochinver beckoned....

Sunday, September 22nd 2013

On this sunny Sunday we took the ferry from Stornoway and crossed over to Ullapool, enjoying some champion haddock and chips on the ferry! Ullapool was almost as quiet on a Sunday as Stornoway had been, so onwards we went to make our way to a place called Clashnessie. Yes, I know - it sounds too good to be true - but it's a real place!! Two wonderful friends of my Mum's, Vanessa and David, had very kindly offered us beds and warmth and food while we were in the area for our show in Lochinver. Vanessa had furnished Aiyana with some excellent directions for getting to our beautifully remote destination: if I remember rightly, it was along the lines of 'turn left after the box selling eggs, go to the end of the road and through the gate opposite; if you can't see a pig arc and black sheep, you're in the wrong place'. BRILLIANT! We arrived to the warmest, most heartfelt welcome from our hosts, and after some drinks and how-do-you-dos, we sat down to the MOST DELICIOUS lamb tagine we'd ever had! I was concerned we might overwhelm Vanessa and David by descending upon them, all 8 of us, but they were the kindest, most generous and relaxed hosts I've ever met. Check out the view we encountered when we stepped outside...

But of course, you never know who you might meet on the road in these parts - as Simon discovered early one morning...

On Monday, September 23rd, we played to a huge audience in Lochinver Village Hall, and a great show it was, too! The promoters in all these remote places work really hard to cultivate an audience for theatre and other cultural events, and they certainly did a wonderful job spreading thw word about our show - not to mention the excellent tea and biscuits in the interval. We love Highland hospitality!!

After the show we came home to another sumptuous meal with Vanessa and David - including chicken soup made with one of their own can't get much more organic! Oh, did I mention the plum tart?! Divine. And gluten free. Genius :-)

On Tuesday morning we set off once again! Understandably, we were somewhat reluctant to leave the Michelin-rated food and spectacular views, but we were due in Helmsdale that afternoon, so off we went, saying fond farewells, and with promises to return. A thousand thank-yous to Vanessa and David - what top-notch people :-)

Tuesday, September 24th 2013

On this day we arrived at Timespan in Helmsdale! Very glad we were to arrive too, as it was chucking it down! Ahaaaaa....we thought - it was about time we faced some real Highland weather ;-) Seeing loads of our posters and flyers around the place, we were excited to meet our audience! Susan had a challenge on her hands, to figure out how best to light a space totally different to anything else we had played - especially the white-washed walls and lower ceiling. But naturally, Susan was equal to the task, and we played in this lovely intimate space to a full house of happy, gracious people. One of our audience members was none other than the esteemed writer George Gunn. George had seen 'The Idiot at the Wall' at the Fringe 2012, and I was so chuffed to hear from this very clever man that he felt the show had grown tremendously. We had a lovely chat in the pub afterwards about Caithness, and Gaelic poets, and touring theatre, and Scottishness. Thank you for making the trip down, George - I hope we meet again! And thank you to Timespan for having us - what a wonderful asset to the community :-)

Wednesday, September 25th 2013

After quite a short drive from Helmsdale, we arrived in Inverness and after unloading at Eden Court, we were UNLEASHED on the shops!! It had been a wee while since we had been around such things, so it was fun to scatter and treat ourselves to new shoes and all sorts :-) As unofficial laundry mistress, I was appropriately excited to arrive at a theatre with awesome laundry facilities, and I ironed whilst happily chatting to the wardrobe team on the road with 'Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story', who were playing on the main stage.

Eden Court is an absolutely brilliant asset to Inverness. From theatre to dance to movies to excellent food, there's so much going on, and as you walk around the town chatting to people, it's clear they are incredibly proud of this cultural hub they now have, and of the quality of events coming through. It was quite an adjustment for us, to be on a pretty big stage after the last couple of venues we'd been in. The main thing we always had to remember, is that in a theatre where once more we can enjoy the height and expansiveness of the space, it's a great opportunity to let through the epic nature of the story - and the parts that God, nature, and fate play in the characters' lives. It was a really good show that night, and all of us actors definitely relished being on a stage again....just as well, since our director Emily was in the house! She made a wee trip up from Glasgow to see us, which was lovely, and helpful for us all to talk about how the show had grown through being out on the road.

Thursday, September 26th 2013

When we arrived to unload into Glengarry Community Hall, we were met with a super-duper surprise....Aiyana's husband Ephraim! He had come to visit, and was extremely welcome, especially since he's very tall/can lift stuff. and because he came bearing doughnuts....thanks Eff! This was a really impressive, well-maintained village hall - full of light and echoes! We really enjoyed this show. It was a smaller house, but somehow we all felt very free to stretch our legs, and extremely focused on telling the story for the first time. There were obviously loads of Gaelic speakers in the audience, which was just great, and we got a lovely response from everyone. Also, I must say, the ladies of the Hall committee provided a FEAST of cakes and scones and tea for the interval! Amazing hospitality! Here's a shot of us setting up in the afternoon. By setting up, I mean drinking tea/eating aforementioned doughnuts...

Friday, September 27th 2013

I should start by saying that we enjoyed spending 3 nights in same area - ie not doing so much driving! And as landscapes go, they don't get much better than the shores of Loch Ness.

Lucy was touched to find her namesake, a blind deer called Lucy, had been taken in and adopted by her hosts. One of the sweetest things I've ever heard...

And how was the show? We had a great crowd in at the Craigmonie Centre in Drumnadrochit! The people running the space there, which is part of an impressive new school, are running a slick operation, and it was great to see people of all ages in attendance. It's such a great feeling to look out and see kids' faces totally absorbed in the story unfolding :-)

After 5 shows in a row, we were pretty knackered, but there was still time for a cheeky pint at a local pub which was tucked away in a forest....I'm sure somebody will remind me what it was called...but it was ace! The folk on Loch Ness like a good boogy!

It's taraa for now, but I'll be back soon with tales from the Small Isles!!

Elspeth xxx

Friday 1 November 2013

And then we went to Applecross...

Wednesday, September 18th 2013

We set off for Applecross. Now, the Applecross Peninsula is one of the most gorgeous and remote places in Scotland. Lying between huge mountains on the mainland, and the Isle of Skye on the other, the only access to it is by two roads, both of which are known to be pretty hairy....The one we were taking, 'Bealach Na Ba' meaning 'Pass of the Cow' is particularly treacherous, and impassable in winter. And we had to get along it with a people-carrier and a big van. Fortunately our drivers, Aiyana and Susan, have BALLS OF STEEL and we did it nae problem! It was truly spectacular, driving through the mist and up through the mountain pass. This mist also meant that the 'viewpoint' which ought to offer views to the Outer Hebrides and south to the Kintail mountains, was totally obscured, but there was also something magical about that! Driving down the other side of the pass we encountered some cyclists having a whale of a time flying down the road - well earned after cycling up it :-) As we began to approach Applecross itself, we understood why it had first been given its Gaelic name, 'a Chomraich', meaning 'The Sanctuary'. The beaches, the calm waters, the hills above the crofts, Clachan Church built on the ancient site of St. Maelrubha's Church (673AD) - it appealed to us us with its majestic history. But first we had to EAT! And would you believe it? This outrageously isolated place is home to one of the best restaurants in Britain! Yum! Regularly awarded various accolades such as 'Best Pub Food in Britain', 'Best Seafood Pub in Scotland', to name a few, The Applecross Inn was a massive treat for this hungry troupe! You've never seen a bunch of actors shut up so promptly as they tucked into incredible fish pies and other seafood dishes. Truly delicious.

But what of the show?! We arrived at the hall and were delighted to find a lovely big playing space. An I.T. class which was going on kindly gave over the space so we could start throwing seaweed around etc. I had heard there were also Gaelic classes going on in the Hall, too, so I was interested to see what sort of crowd would show up to hear some Gaelic drama. When the time came for Annie and me to go out and start the pre-show ceilidh tunes, Annie hesitated as there were about 4 people in the audience. Hmm. We waited a little, and there was still only 4 folk out there! Oh well, out we went and started playing. Then at around 7.40, tons more people started coming in.'Ah', siad Annie, 'We're definitely in the West now - they're all on Hebridean time!' So we kept playing while more audience filed in - we really didn't mind when the show went up - we were in Applecross and so far from our cares of the city that we might've been on the moon. And then followed a brilliant show and massively courteous audience. We hear not too much theatre makes it out to Applecross - but we gotta tell you: it's totally worth it.


Then after the show it was back to the Applecross Inn for a cheeky pint and a Hot Toddy. In fact, most of our audience had headed there too, so we had a lovely chat with folk about the show. And we saw LOADS of deer just hanging out on the road. Magic! I'm definitely going back someday.

Thursday, September 19th 2013

Though sad to leave Applecross early that morning, we were all excited to be on our way to the Outer Isles, and I was particularly eager to bring these wonderful people to an island I love very dearly, and where I spent many summers growing up: Berneray. Such fond memories of racing to catch the ferry to Skye, then the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy, then another ferry to Berneray! Nowadays there's a bridge to Skye and a causeway linking Berneray to Uist, but you've still got a lovely crossing from Skye to enjoy - and we had just the finest weather for it. Glorious! Check out these happy producers!

We arrived on Berneray to a scrummy afternoon tea of cakes and scones and tea prepared by my amazing sister, Ruth. And Dad was there too, of course - ready to welcome us to the Turner house at Backhill. The house is almost exactly as it was when I was a child, and I love that it always has the same smell :-) Dad had been busy drumming up audiences for us - what a guy! He promised that if it came to it, he would drive around the island hustling people into a van just before the show ;-) In the end, this wasn't necessary as they turned out in HUGE numbers! I've got great memories of ceilidh dances, whisky drinking, and long, bardic songs being sung in that hall, and it has a wonderful energy. So seeing it full of people, many of whom I know/am related to, all gathered for our play, was really special. And of course, there was a strong feeling of the play being rooted in my memories of this place, and it was just wonderful to hear the audience enjoying the Hebridean setting of the play. I hoped they would be happy at the way I had represented island life, and their faces afterwards fulfilled that hope. Then after the show we all went to Dad's thatched hoose at Lamerig, for a wee ceilidh! Annie played 'Lexie Mackaskill', a favourite tune of my Dad's, written by John Napier who lived on Berneray, and we played a few more together, had a few drams, and told stories by the fire. Perfect end to the evening.

I've rarely been so proud of anything as I was of our efforts to bring this show to Berneray. I'll never forget it. Thank you to all on Berneray for the warm welcome and all your help - Chrissie, my cousins Meg, Andrew, Hamish and Finbar, Gloria, and of course Dad and Ruth. nd thank you to the whole crew, especially our incredible producer, Aiyana, for coming on the journey working with such passion and patience. Much love and gratitude to you all. xxxx

Saturday, September 21st 2013

Then we headed to Stornoway! I'd heard great things about 'An Lanntair', and I think we were all excited to get into a theatre space again. There's something about the height and expansiveness of an auditorium which allows us to indulge in the epic nature of the play - especially when we reach the final beach scene. Tons of fun! After loading in the set, we headed back to our B&B for the night. Our hostess was a very colourful lady from the Ukraine, with an obvious penchant for stuffed animals, animal sculptures, and 1970s decor. She was quite nice but her dog was much chattier :-)

The Stornoway audience was lovely! It was harder for us to gauge how much they were enjoying Act I, as they felt so far away, but we heard later that they were indeed chuckling away at the jokes :-) At the end of the show, they clapped and cheered and had us out for two curtain calls, so we were mightily pleased! A few of the cast stayed and partied in the bar, but I had a heinous cold and my voice was a little ropey, so it was straight to bed for me, and nae chatting!

There isn't much open on the Sabbath in Stornoway. We all had a bit of time to wander around and kick back, but the streets were so empty, we all just kept bumping into eachother, haha! Simon took a wander through the grounds of Lews Castle - hopefully we'll see his pics soon! We then boarded the ferry that would take us to Ullapool, and settled in for some scampi tails and a wee nap. A lovely Sunday :-)

Right, I'm off! I'll be back soon to regail you with tales of Eilbeck vs. Highland Cow, lamb tagine, drinking with George Gunn, and some high-risk shopping in Inbhir Nis.....

Elspeth xo