Angus: Weaver of Grass

Angus: Weaver of Grass is an unusual and beautiful production that weaves together music, puppetry, and mask into a visual and aural spectacle. It tells the true tale of Angus MacPhee, a native of South Uist, who enjoyed a happy childhood before enlisting in WWII. During his time of service he developed schizophrenia, and as a result he lived in a psychiatric hospital near Inverness for most of the rest of his life. During his 50 years in care Angus chose not to speak and spent much of his time weaving astonishing objects out of grass.

Angus’ self-elected silence is reflected in this production, as most of the story is told without dialogue. Mairi Morrison, a Gaelic singer, provides minimal narration in a combination of Gaelic and English, but word is subservient to image in this production. The majority of the story is told with visuals – some simple, some stunning.

Puppets give body to important moments of his life, while puppet size is manipulated to play upon heartstrings. Angus’ childhood in the Hebrides is told with small-scale puppets in a suitcase and, as Angus ages, he is actualised in larger forms, until as a full-grown man a full head mask is used. Intricate projections on the white screens that form the set support the setting for parts of the story, and small animations play out parts of the narrative.

While puppets are used to beautiful effect, the scenes played with actors (such as the sequence in which Angus is admitted into the mental hospital and given electroshock therapy) are among the most memorable. The simplicity of this arrangement stands out amidst the complexity of the other parts. While we never lose track of the narrative, at times it does feel as if theatrical tricks are superseding the power of the story.

That said, it is a moving tale, and for the most part the storytelling is beautiful. Horse and Bamboo Theatre use a complex interplay of puppetry, projection, music, and mask – it is a very technically demanding show. This is a visually impressive production that utilises multiple innovative theatrical techniques to present a heartfelt story.

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Performances

The Blurb

Angus MacPhee’s life is a tale of Scottish islands, illness, and magical hats made of grass, stunning like sunbursts. Featuring Gaelic singer Mairi Morrison. ‘Physical, emotional and aural beauty ... their collective artistry is awesome’ (Stage).

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