ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

5 minute theatre film

Our application to the National Theatre of Scotland to be included in the 24 hour on-line broadcasting of 5 minute films to celebrate their first five years has been successful, and a 5 minute film of a section of the Angus McPhee show will be broadcast to the world on 21st June 2011. The film has to be of a live performance in front of an audience, so we will film an extract during our 'workshopping' of the show from Berneray Community Hall, in the outer Hebrides. More information here.

Alison is taking a well-deserved Easter break, and I've spent the past week looking at the material we have for the NTS film, as well as the film projections and animations we'll need for our own use (the script is in its eighth re-write); making some simple puppets for test purposes when we're on the islands; slowly building up the paint on the 5 masks of Angus; and talking with Christina (our new member of the Horse + Bamboo arts team) about the technical jobs that will need doing - again with an eye to what we'll be doing on our mid-May visit to Berneray. Above, three shots of my working notebook for the project - this notebook is a wonderful thing in itself - made by Joanne B Kaar

I've also been discussing the film and animation sections of the Angus production (quite different to the film for the NTS) with Daniella Orsini, who designed the Horse + Bamboo website. There will be four sections of film projected onto (and behind) the set as part of the performance narrative - each probably about 5 minutes in length, and the films will overlay the performance, being projected onto and becoming an integral part of the stage action. I'm hoping that Daniella will be able to work with me to animate and create these important parts of the production.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


The results of the first paintings of the 5 heads of Angus - the paint is still wet!

This is simply a rough coat; the idea is to use a painterly approach and keep the paintwork lively. So it's almost like painting a quick and expressive portrait sketch. Painting these 5 masks took me about 90 minutes, but there's a long way to go yet, as each one will be considered as an individual and then worked on in more detail - so each mask will probably undergo another 3 or 4 coats. Still, it's nice to have made a start and see them begin to come to life.

Ferry tickets have now been booked for our expedition to Berneray in May. There will be Loz, Alison, Christina (the technician), Mark (puppeteer) and myself travelling from Lancashire. On the island we'll meet up with Joanne (down from Caithness) and Chris (who lives on the island).

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Drilling holes in Angus

Alison is finishing the puppet of Angus McPhee as a young boy, while I'm waiting for the last of my masks of Angus to dry so it can come off the mould. 

Above Alison is soldering the joint on the legs of the puppet, and she has drilled the legs in order to reduce the weight of the figure. The holes don't extend below the knee as he'll wear short trousers. 

Below there's the mechanism that enables the head to move. By using a dowel inside a plastic sleeve and a secondary support wire that enables a counter-lever movement, the head can move up and down, side to side, and also look up and down (to nod, for example).  

Monday, 4 April 2011

Check this out...

Definitely worth a look at the photographs Joanne B. Kaar has just posted of her woven hat for Angus. It fits (in theory) on the mask of the old Angus. The one on the left of the four in the photograph of my entry of Friday, 1st April, below.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The faces of Angus McPhee

Alison is assembling the young Angus puppet (the parts for this were photographed in the last blog); and I've just taken the fourth of the papier-mache heads off the clay mould:

Above, Angus ages from right to left. We have still to make a baby Angus puppet, and a 14 year old Angus mask.