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

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