Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Beauty of the North East!

Hello!

Hope you're all having a peachy weekend. I'm bundled up and ready to tell you all about Stoirm Òg's adventures in the North East!

I first thought of bringing 'The Idiot at the Wall' to this part of Scotland in November 2012, when I was spending some time in Portsoy. My mother grew up there, in this picturesque little village on the Banffshire Coast. In November it takes a bit of a battering from the wind, so I was very glad to stay warm by visiting folk who remembered my Mum's dad being the local doctor, and playing my fiddle too :-) The people were so welcoming, and interested in this play I was thinking of touring, so I thought: why not? The play deals very much with a community which lives and dies by the sea, and I was sure the folk of Portsoy would relate. Then I learned about North East Arts Touring which helps and promotes rural touring in the North East, and the rest rolled along from there. #happyidiots

Friday, October 4th 2013

As we left Edinburgh, however - part of me wondered: "Will they like it up there?" Apart from Greenock, and our home crowd at the Traverse, we had only really performed the show in the West Highlands - where more Gaelic is spoken, of course, and they kent a lot of the songs! Well, I needn't have worried: we had a full house in New Deer, and the audience were brilliant. Playing ceilidh tunes at the top of the show, I looked out, saw rows and rows of beaming faces, and thought: yep, they're into it! Also, in New Deer Village Hall they served wine at the interval - a great move - perked them up for Act II it did :-) Also, my Mum came with 3 friends! She loves zooming around Scotland!

So after a lovely show, we packed up the van once more...the Butterchurn being Kenny's job - obviously...

 
And off we went to bed!
 
 
Saturday, October 5th 2013


On this day, we made the short drive over to Kemnay. On the way, we stopped in lovely Inverurie, where some of us shopped and some of us went for tea and some of us went to see the ducks! 'Twas a nice wee breather :-) Arriving at Kemnay Village Hall, we were so impressed to see the place so well maintained - it was obviously used often, and cared for with a lotta love.



We were given loads of cakes and tea as we set up for the evening - yum :-) As on Berneray, and a few other halls since, we had the question again of whether to play at the side of the hall, or on the length. We chose the former once more - much, much more intimate and allows the audience into our world more :-) From backstage, we heard the hall filling up, and again extra seats were added! The whole front row was full of Mr. Eilbeck's family and friends - he always has the biggest fan-club :-)

The show was a raging success with the charming audience, and we packed up tired and happy and ready for the drive to Portsoy, where Mum's fish pie was waiting!! Thank you to all in Kemnay xxx


Sunday, October 6th 2013

OUR FINAL SHOW!!!

Together with Helen, the lovely promoter in Portsoy, we had decided to do a 3pm show, since it was a Sunday. It's a family show, and you can't keep folk up on a school night! Helen and her team had done an amazing job of spreading the word, and had even advertised Afternoon Tea - with scones! - as being part of the ticket price. Ace! It always tickled me that the tickets could be purchased from Portsoy's famous ice-cream shop :-) Also, my Mum - A.K.A Magic Macrae, as I think I'll call her - did loads of work letting people know that Dr. Macrae's granddaughter's play was coming to the village!! Mum - you're the best :-)

Portsoy's Town Hall is a beautiful old building, and was the perfect setting for our final show. We used the meeting room upstairs as our dressing room, and on the walls hang portraits of all the town's provosts (inc. Dr. Macrae), going way back. So I felt quite stirred by the history of the place, and as we watched the audience arriving from this upstairs window, we were all excited to finish things with a bang.

And we did! The huge hall was full of people, and a lovely crowd they were too. The music sounded divine, and of course, being our last show - on this tour at least - it all felt extra poignant to us.

I want to thank Helen and her team - for inviting us to Portsoy, for the pancakes, for doing a great job spreading the word. A big thank you to my Auntie Ismay, who allowed our troupe to stay in her cottage - so very much appreciated. Thank you to Maisie Bruce, a friend of said Auntie's, and my Mum's, who also put us up and fed us!!

Thank you Emyr and Ruth at NEAT for all your help and support :-)

Thank you to my Mum - Jean Turner - who looked after us so well on the last leg of our tour. We arrived to mountains of food and warm beds, and you were a perfect hostess to this weary lot. It was a special and wonderful time :-)

Susan looking down to Portsoy's 17th c. harbor.



Goodness - that's it! I've told you all of it! (Well, not the ugly/x-rated bits ;-)

Before I finish, I want to offer a huge Thank You to our director, cast and production team for coming on this journey with me. Can't wait to work with you all again in the near or distant future: it's been a privilege.

Love, light and peace,

Elspeth xxx

p.s. Trailer for 2014 coming soon!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Small Isles

Saturday September 28th 2013

On this day we crossed to the historic and beautiful island of Canna. The usual Calmac ferries were in dry-dock, so we lucked out and got a ride across on a wee pleasure-cruise boat - usually hired out for spotting whales and dolphins!

It was a magical crossing. We went via Eigg and then Muck, where Simon saw a magical horse and I played my fiddle to the ducks.


We were met off the boat on Canna by our lovely, marvellous hosts, who escorted us around the island's single road (which, naturally, becomes submerged in high tides...) to our home for the next two nights...


Beautifully cosy, and with a kitchen all ready to go, a couple of us got to work on dinner, whilst the others went to check out our venue!


 This is the new Camus Arts centre, and is a converted chapel - absolutely stunning and an ideal space for intimate theatre. In fact, we ended up placing the audience here, where Ms. Goldie is standing, and playing down here at the other end...


We like posing :-)

And have you ever seen such a pretty (and holy) dressing room?






We adjusted the set and blocking of the show to play what was a considerably smaller space, and the show was magic. It got off to an electric start when the connector for Annie's pipes ran away and hid itself in the grass before the show - so both the cast and audience, who were by then gathered outside the venue, helped to search for it......and someone found it! Cue much cheering! We went up a little late - but since the only way outta there was by boat and we were all there for the night, we figured no one was in a hurry! The island has a population of 11, and there were 15 in our audience....which means some people came over especially on the boat!! How awesome's that?? In fact, we met two of them on the crossing over, and assured them they were in for a theatrical feast :-) Perhaps it was the intimacy of the space, or the fact that it was a holy place, or that this was probably the smallest, most far-flung island we would play on and resembled the play's island - but there was something utterly bewitching about doing the play there. They thought so too, and gave us a standing ovation and lots of tears. Result :-) So much love for Canna hope to return.

Thank you so much Stuart and Julie for showing us around Tigh Mhor - the house once lived in by the eminent folklorists John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw. It's been preserved just as they left it - as if they just stepped out for a walk :-) Thank you for introducing us to Margaret's dog, Patchou!! We discovered him guarding our dressing room when we came up for the interval...


Thank you Winnie for doing our laundry and for the delicious fruitcake - you are an amazing lady :-) And of course, a huge, massive thank you to Colin and David for inviting us to perform on Canna. You've been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic since the very start, and it was a real pleasure. Hugs xxx

A few more Canna pics, just because they're so pretty. Thank you Mr. Eilbeck!




After two days and nights on Canna, where we performed and cooked and drank whisky and played games (heads down thumbs up, anyone?) and - in the absence of any street lights whatsoever - looked at more stars than we'd ever seen, we left utterly happy and, I think, a little changed by the serenity of that magical place. I remember we were all a little quieter on the journey back - so many great memories bedding down :-)

Monday, September 30th 2013

We crossed from Canna, via Rum (where we saw loads of deer sunbathing!) and back to Mallaig. From there we drove to Oban and stayed there for the night, after devouring some amazing seafood. On the Tuesday, we took the short ferry ride over to Mull, passing none other than 'THE MAIDEN'S ISLAND' on the way!! I was very excited to see the actual wee island which inspired the story, in some versions, which inspired me to write the play. Magic.

Mull Theatre is AWESOME! I hadn't imagined it would be so huge - a great big atmospheric black box space - and yet surprisingly intimate as the (raked) audience comes almost right up to the edge of the ground-level stage. I remember being so excited to do a lovely long warm-up in there - there's nothing quite like an empty theatre :-) When showtime came, Annie and I walked out to start the ceilidh, and the house was almost full - what a treat! So brilliant to see so many folk on Mull coming out to a play - and again, definitely some Gaelic speakers in the house, getting all the jokes quick-sharp. Lovely crowd to play for. Thank you to Sheena and all at the theatre for having us :-)

We stayed the night on Mull and travelled back to Oban the following day. We were all looking forward to being in our own beds for a night ahead of our Edinburgh show...

Thursday, October 3rd 2013

Hello Edinburgh!! By the time Thursday morning came, we'd sold out Traverse 1, and there was nothing for me to do except try to CHILL OUT before the show.....man, I was excited! Since we're an Edinburgh-based company, and began 'The Idiot at the Wall' with Edinburgh audiences, it was thrilling to be bringing this improved, developed version of the play back here. While we were all warming up and getting used to the space, Emily gave us some great advice, which was to bring all of the incredible magic of the past couple of weeks on the road to our audience here, on this big stage - to bring those sensory memories of the landscape and sea-crossings and kind Hebridean people here and share them. I think that's what we did, and we had a blast. The audience seemed to like it, too. What a night. Thank you to all at the Traverse, to all of you who came and showed so much love, and thank you Universe :-) 

On that note, I'm signing off. Talk soon my lovely fairy friends xxx





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 chickens....you 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






Monday, 28 October 2013

Time to catch up....

Feasgar math!

So today I've decided to dabble in a little retrospective blogging. Partly because there wasn't time/wifi on the road, and partly because I've been SLEEPING a LOT since our return, I haven't yet re-visited my beautiful memories of the tour. So I'll get started....

I'll pop up pictures to accompany as they come in. We all took some gorgeous/hilarious shots on the road and I'm still gathering them a'thegither....

We'll begin with some shots from our time at the lovely Becaon Arts Centre, in Greenock, where we opened the show and had a wonderful time :-) Check out the glamourous Ms. Goldie fixin' her hairdo! And we enjoyed eating in the Beacon's restaurant - delicious food and warm hospitality overlooking the water....perfect :-)

 

Above you see the first pack of the van going on. Our production manager, Susan, is in charge, then behind her you see an army of brilliant and tough women - our musician Annie, Producer Aiyana, and Director Emily. I took this photo thinking: these women could RULE THE WORLD! And the van was packed!

After a few drinks (and happy tears, on my part), we say farewell to our director, Emily Reutlinger, and head to bed before heading NORTH!!

We were all very excited as we discussed what on earth it would feel like to do this show in a village hall.....not long to go!


We left on the Sunday morning to make our way north to Craignish Village Hall...en route we reveled in stories, jokes, and some creative navigational techniques...then look at the view as we stepped out of the car!



We were greeted by the lovely ladies who run the hall, who made us tea and fed us biscuits. Happy Idiots :-) Thrilled to be loading into our first village hall venue, we set about transforming the space into our wee croft house, with plenty of room for spectators :-) Haha, Goldie just lifted BOTH those boxes....they make 'em tough in  Rutherglen...


After loading in, we headed to our B&Bs for a wee nap....then it was back out to do the show!!


 And what a show it was. The set looked so beautiful against the natural wood interior of the hall, Susan did a brilliant job lighting it, and the audience were enthralled. They had us out for two curtain calls! Super chuffed we were! We all commented afterwards on how great it was to be so close to the audience, and how it felt much more as if we were inviting folk to a ceilidh. Annie and I were getting into the swing of playing tunes together at the top of the show, and we loved the acoustics of the hall. Here she is afterwards practicing on the dulcimer!


We went to bed happy, and woke up to a YUMMY breakfast of the best smoked salmon I'd ever tasted....if you're in Ford, head to Murrays for some smoked fish....AMAZING! With happy tummies, we carried on northwards to the Isle of Skye. I remember having to get a boat over as a kid, but of course there's a spectacular bridge now. By this time we were all finding our etiquette for requesting CDs in the car... (Can we change this now? / Who brought this? / Do you have anything cheerier? / What's this pish?) and Kenny suggested we needed some Rolling Stones to cross the bridge to. Good call Mr. L!

We had the evening off in Portree, so we headed out for some seafood on the shore...


A few of us headed to a local pub afterwards, too, for a cheeky dram or two. But alas there's are nae pics of that ;-) I got back to the Portree Hotel and attempted to find my way around the hotel's industrial washing machines which the staff very kindly let me use....I didn't shrink anything! Even after the whisky!

On Tuesday morning, we all enjoyed wandering around Portree and then we gathered at the Aros Centre to load in ahead of our show! We were met by Dave, who gave us a warm welcome and helped Susan get all the lights set up. After unloading and taking advantage of some wifi, Aiyana, Kenny and I put our faces on ahead of doing interviews for BBC Alba's 'An La'. They also filmed some of the show, and the feature went out on Thursday the 19th. It made us quite famous on Berneray by the time we did our show there on the Friday! Anyway, back to Skye....a lovely audience; it was strange to be further from them, and not to be sitting in their laps (ahem) as we had been two nights prior, but it was a great show - what a great thing for Skye that theatre is. Kenny told me afterwards that the distinguished poet Meg Bateman had been in the audience. We were dead chuffed to hear that she enjoyed the show, and described the writing as 'bàrdail', which is Gaelic for 'poetic'. I wore a huge grin after that :-)

Time to sign off for today....tune in a-màireach for tales of infamous roads to Applecross, Tuairnear hospitality on Berneray, and a trip back in time in a Stornoway B&B......

Oidhche Mhath!
Ealasaid xo



Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Thank You for sponsoring the making of our set!

Having had a chance to draw breath after our incredible Scottish tour of 'The Idiot at the Wall', we'd like to issue a huge THANK YOU to two very important supporters of the show.

CAMIRA FABRICS very generously donated a MULTITUDE of beautiful felt, which the wonderfully gifted designer JAN BEE BROWN then cut into what became our seaweed. Those of you who have seen the show know how much seaweed there was...it was everywhere...escaping from jackets and chests and all sorts....so a big thank you for helping us to create that.

A big thank you also, to THE STEPHEN JOSEPH THEATRE in Scarborough, for your help with carpentry - it made such a huge difference for Jan Bee to have that sort of support, and we truly appreciate it.

Thank you, both, for supporting Jan and us in making the production something which was not only stunning to look at, but also tourable. It all worked so well. Images to follow!

Elspeth xo


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Hello from Clashnessie!!

It's been ages since I wrote, because we've been out even FURTHER into the wilds of the Highlands! We arrived this evening at the house of Vanessa and David - two wonderful and lovely friends of my mum's, who have created an idyllic paradise near Clashnessie. We're staying with them for two nights while we do a show in Lochinver tomorrow night. We were greeted with wine, beer, Lamb and Prune Tagine, Veggie Tagine, and a phenomenal dessert!! Happy happy Idiots. Thanks so much Vanessa and David. Lochinver - see you tomorrow!

Since last I wrote, we've done four shows! Aros Centre on Skye, Applecross Village Hall, Berneray Community Hall, and An Lanntair in Stornoway. I've got LOADS to say on each, so look out for separate blogs for tales of 70s Guesthouses and Ukranian land-ladies, treacherous mountain passes, ceilidhs in blackhouses, excellent seafood, stags roaming around our vans, sheep napping in the road, and the most wonderful audiences!!

We've had an amazing journey so far. This is an amazing group of people. Every morning we get in vans, drive several hours straight to another venue, unload the set and equipment, then Susan and Aiyana work tirelessly to make the set work in whatever space we're in, while the actors go have a wee break. Then we do the show - every night so different - pack up, load out, go to bed, and repeat! This can only be done with incredible patience, generosity, and mountains of passion for telling stories....all of which this group has in abundance. So honoured to be on the road with them. A wee tid-bit from Berneray ahead of a longer report....at the end of the show, the lights went dark and nobody - I mean, nobody - breathed/moved for the longest time. It was as if the outside world didn't exist. We were all - the audience, the players, the crew, utterly connected in the unfolding magic. Then we did a few curtain calls. None of us will ever forget that night!!

Off to bed....more soon...

Oh wait!! Vanessa just produced a bully beef tin from the 1st World War, that had been hidden in the wall of the house in 1951. It had belonged to a Mr. Mackenzie, who once lived here, and had fought in the War. We just passed it around. Holding history in our hands....AND the family in the play are Mackenzies!! Synchronicity rules.

Night night xxx


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Idiots on the road!!

HELLO!!

THE IDIOT AT THE WALL is now on the road! Discovery of past few days: blogging/tweeting about a Highlands and Islands Tour is tricky due to lack of reception in some parts of the Highlands and Islands!! So let's get caught up!

Last week we moved out of our rehearsal space at The Arts Complex in Edinburgh. Thank you to Dale, Doreen, and all who made us feel so welcome - we had loads of work to do and we had a blast rehearsing there. It was such a privilege to be in a safe place to explore and rediscover this story with such a talented bunch of people.

From there, we moved to the gorgeous Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock, where we began tech-ing the show. Thank you SO much to Julie, Brian, Iain in the restaurant, and all at the Beacon for such a warm reception and for all your support. A marathon of work began here - for the cast, working and re-working scene changes and getting used to the space, and for Emily Reutlinger (our director), Susan (our Production Manager and also our Lighting Designer!) and Jan Bee Brown (our Designer) it was time to make the show look focused and beautiful - and what an amazing job they did. Talk about master-craftswomen! After several long days, and some great work on music with Annie Grace and Aly Macrae, we performed our first preview to a fantastically receptive audience on Saturday afternoon. It was sizzling - a great start!

On Saturday evening we officially opened the show - and I can't remember ever performing to a more lively audience....laughs, gasps, swoons, and TWO CURTAIN CALLS! What a thrill! It's so hard to tell what sort of show you've got on your hands until you get to play to a whole new audience, and so it's a privilege for us all to be telling this story anew each night :-)

Massive thanks to our Press and Marketing Officer, Jane Hamilton, and to the localGreenock press for helping us to draw a crowd. Especially touching to see so many locals coming out. And Tim Barrow, Lucy Goldie and I had a blast talking to Inverclyde Radio about the show! Lucy Goldie was a natural!

On Wednesday I headed into Glasgow for a live chat with Janice Forsyth on the BBC Culture Studio...how nervous was I??! But it turned out really well. Dead chuffed :-)

We were also joined on Friday by our Videographer, Robbie Jones, and our Production Photographer, Eoin Carey...can't wait to see the results!

Thank you so much to the Turner clan who helped so much during production week - Mum and Dad for ferrying props around and helpng us book B&Bs, Dad for helping us with our Gaelic, and my sister Ruth for being on hand to help with nutritional/medical emergencies - so thankful you were around :-) And thank you Murdo Turner and Tim du Feu for easing our musical transition into this production. I hope you caught the broadcast of 'Odhran's theme on the Culture Studio. Janice loved it! xx

After the show on Saturday, we packed our set, lights, and luggage into our van, and then Emily cracked open some bubbly. She and I have worked very closely together over the past year and a half to get the script where it is, and to get to this point - and it was pretty emotional to realize she was cutting us loose, and giving the show over to us to take on the road. Thank you, Emily, for your dedication, patience, generosity and PLUCKINESS!! We'll see you again soon. Sleep well!!

On Sunday morning we set off for Craignish Village Hall in Ardfern. Many of the cast were strangers to this part of the country, and so the lessons in local history along the way from Mr. Kenny Lindsay were most welcome! And the jokes, too. We like Kenny's jokes :-) We seemed to pass through at least 4 kinds of weather (and some floods!) on the drive north....a sign of things to come! But that's the thing about Scotland - our landscape looks stunning/dramatic/inviting in all kinds of weather. Anyway, our drivers, Producer Aiyana and PM Susan, are feisty behind the wheel!

Our show at Craignish was just wonderful. Thanks Diane and all for the welcome :-) We were all nervous/excited to do our first performance in a village hall, and we couldn't have had a better show. The set and costumes against the wood of the hall's interior looked absolutely tremendous under the lights - well done Susan. And the audience! They were so close (after adding an extra row of chairs)! Brilliant! They were absorbed throughout, and we were once more delighted to do two curtain calls! Thank you Craignish, for coming out to see us, and for your lovely comments after the show. Hope to see you again sometime!

After a very pleasant night and amazing breakfast of Murrays Smoked Salmon, in Ford, we set off for the drive up to Skye. Great bunch of folk to travel with. Great chat, great tunes, and I am learning new toons from Annie Grace as we go - what a treat. We'll try not to drive her mad with our 'deedliy-dee-ing' of new tunes! We arrived in Portree last night, and had a lovely dinner. Thanks so much to Sharon and all at the Portree Hotel for taking such good care of us.

And now here we are at Aros!! There's been loads of tickets sold for tonight - woop woop! I'm getting ready to chat to the BBC ahead of them filming some of the show here tonight - a wee feature will go out on the local news on Thursday - I'll keep you posted!

Lovely to meet Dave at last - thanks for having us, and here's to a great show!

Tomorrow we head to Applecross for our show there tomorrow night. Connection-depending, I'll write more then :-)

And pics to follow!!

Els xo




Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Moran Taing, Alba Chruthachail


Thank you!!

We have been awarded funding from Creative Scotland for our tour of The Idiot at the Wall and we're so delighted! As we have to forgo a newsletter this month in order to make way for an AWESOME E-invite to our tour dates (WOOP!), we won't have the opportunity to make a heartfelt thank you as we usually would, in a letter to all of our followers and supporters! However, we really want to express what a huge difference this makes to us: not only in terms of much-needed financial support, but also because of the weight carried by a vote of confidence from another supporter. It means a lot. An aspirational spirit can carry you a long way - and then you need serious backing. We're so thankful to be getting it from our National funding body. Thanks, Creative Scotland and The National Lottery, for helping us reach some of the farthest-flung corners of our much-loved country on this tour. And thanks, especially, to Brian Ó hEadhra, who has been guiding us since the start, and our funding officer Nicola Hislop.

Elspeth and Aiyana
Stoirm Òg

Have you met our John Mackenzie yet?

You can't tell from the picture, but this is a very tall man! Welcome Kenny!



Kenny Lindsay, 'John Mackenzie', The Idiot at the Wall

Kenny has worked as an actor with many theatre companies across Scotland, including seasons with Dundee Rep, Perth Theatre, The Brunton, Musselburgh and two seasons with Mull Theatre as well as work at the Tron, Pavilion, Cumbernauld, the Kings Theatre, Glasgow and Tosg Gaelic Theatre Company with whom he appeared in A' Chuirt. He worked, too, as actor/deviser with Theatre Hebrides on Roghainn nan Daoine:The People’s Choice. As a playwright he has worked with Mull Theatre, Grey Coast Theatre and Perth Youth Theatre. His play, The Dogstone, set in his hometown, Oban, was presented as a co-production by the Traverse Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland in 2008.His short Gaelic play, Fon Choill – On the Run was seen at An Lanntair in 2009 and his most recent play The Wrapping in the Hide, was performed at Queen Margaret University. His bilingual book of Gaelic oral history interviews, Mas Math Mo Chuimhne – Reflection of the Gaels, was published recently by Clì Gàidhlig. Earlier this year he founded Theatar: Camus Beag, the Oban Gaelic drama group, with whom he has just directed two plays for local radio.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Welcome Kenny, Annie and Jane!

Thrilled to be able to welcome three lovely new faces to our team! Fantastic actor Kenny Lindsay is joining our cast as John Mackenzie. Acclaimed Scottish singer and multi-instrumentalist Annie Grace is also joining us on stage and I can't wait to hear her weave some musical magic! And the PR guru Jane Hamilton has joined our team to work on our 2013 tour. Welcome! So honoured and excited to be working with you all. More details to follow!

Tour Details Announced!


Massively excited to finally be able to publish our full tour schedule for 'The Idiot at the Wall' 2013! Head to our 'Book Tickets' page for all the deets! Big thank you to Creative Scotland, The Touring Network, N.E.A.T, and The Beacon Arts Centre for your support on this, our first tour :-)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

We're opening at the Beacon!!



We are delighted to announce that on September 14th, 2013, we will launch our Scottish Tour of 'THE IDIOT AT THE WALL' at the beautiful Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock. Thank you very much to Julie Ellen and Jade for showing us around yesterday! This is a stunning new development, perched right on the water, looking over to River Clyde estuary to Argyll and Dunbartonshire. The perfect theatre from which to transport you all to a tiny Hebridean island.....this is one the gallery spaces upstairs....check out the view....



We are honoured to be opening our new production at the Beacon's wonderful Studio Theatre, which is playing host to some of Scotland's best touring artists and companies!



Check out The Beacon HERE !

More details to follow on how to book. For those of you in Edinburgh, we'll be running a bus through to the opening, if you wanna catch a lift with us......sounds like TROUBLE!! YEAH!

Love and Light!

Stoirm Òg xxx

Loads of News!!

It's been AGES since I had time to write.....but here we are in July!! Thank you Universe, for the sunshine!

We've had an amazing month! We've been meeting some brilliant actors for the role of John in 'The Idiot at the Wall' - watch this space :-)

We raised almost 2700 pounds in a hugely successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign - thank you SO much to all who have been supporting us, and spreading the word!

Also, we're thrilled to have found one of the final pieces of the puzzle.....our Touring Production Manager! We are going to be joined on this tour by the very lovely Susan Martin - more details on her to follow. She's ace! Welcome Susan!

Finally, I'm about to tell you all about where we're launching the tour....and VERY excited we are, too.....

Stoirm Òg xxx

Friday, 31 May 2013

Fancy touring with us??

We are currently seeking a Touring Production Manager. Please head to our 'Work With Us' page for more information, and get in touch if interested. Thank you!

Elspeth xo

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Are you a Production Designer?

We are now seeking a Production Designer to work with us on our tour of 'The Idiot at the Wall'. Head to our 'Work With Us' page for more information, and get in touch if you're interested - we'd love to hear from you :-) Thanks!
Deadline 26/4/13

Stoirm Òg xo

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

We have a new name!!

'Stoirm Òg'


I'm super excited to announce our new name...... 'Stoirm Òg', which is Gaelic for 'Young Storm'. It's pronounced 'sturum og' ('stuh' as in 'sturdy'!).....eeazzee peezee! 

So how come this happened....?! I really liked the name 'First Bicycle', which Angie and I hit upon (in a mad hurry!) last year - it was inspired by a line in 'The Idiot at the Wall' which talked about the first bicycle coming to the island, and then it also made us think of risk, trying new things and such :-) However, having lived with the company and thought about what we are, what we're doing, and what we hope to do, I wanted to listen to instinct and find a name which I will love saying a hundred times a day, and which I've found through the brainstorming, faith, and rigour with which I like to work. I've settled on a Gaelic name because I'm in the midst of what I hope will be a long love affair with the language, because I feel totally at home speaking it, and because I'd like to honour that by combining it with this other thing I love like crazy, which is theatre. A massive thank you to all those I consulted (including some esteemed Gaelic scholars I was able to hassle about it) - thank you for your wisdom, honesty, encouragement, and brilliant anecdotes :-) I arrived at this name through tons of exploration, and in the end gave most consideration to words that would sustain and inspire me through ups and downs! The challenging business of producing art is such that it has the potential to kill the youthful spirit of adventure and wonder essential to making the art in the first place, and I wanted a name that would remind me to retain my sense of humour, and loving approach, even in the wildest tempests :-) Also, the word 'storm' is awesome because it reminds me so much of the mood which often envelops ideas....when they're forming, when you start to nurture them, when they won't do what they're told etc - and it'll be great to remember that ideas are like wild little storms crashing around, and they just need some structure and love to let them develop into amazing work. The brilliant director, and my dear friend, Lisa Milinazzo once said to me: 'Remember that nothing is ever created - no matter how huge or impressive - that didn't begin as a tiny, tiny seed' I thought of that loads on my journey to a new name...thanks Lisa :-) What was also tricky, was anticipating the many ways various Gaelic words might be pronounced by those with no knowledge of Gaelic - and I am very keen not to exclude people or scare them off from talking about us 'n stuff ;-) What I've arrived at, though, is super easy to pronounce, and feels nice to say, too....who doesn't like Scottish 'r' sounds??! So don't be scared of messing it up....no big deal :-) Gaelic is brilliant and might even be lodged somewhere in your unconscious memory of a past life.....

Oh, and I kinda like how 'young storm' sounds like the coming-of-age name of someone in an ancient, indigenous tribe.....so that's sweeeeeeet.

Enough rambling already....anyways - that's why I'm taking us forward with a shiny new name! I hope you like :-)

Now back to tour-planning.....

Slàn!

Elspeth xo

Artistic Director
Stoirm Òg

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Touring Network!



Great news! We just heard today that 'The Idiot at the Wall' is going to be included in The Touring Network's Supported touring initiative. We're very excited! A bit about The Touring Network...

'The Touring Network supports those who enable professional performing arts events in some of the most remote and beautiful places in Scotland'

Click here for more :-) Thank you TTN!

In other news, we had a great tour/production meeting at the lovely Creative Scotland offices on Friday morning. Aiyana and Emily could take over the world, I think ;-) In the afternoon Emily and I got to work on the new draft, and I love it more than ever :-) Can't wait for you all to see it later this year....

Also.....a teaser....I'm about to change the name of the company....whaaaaaaaaaat??! It's Gaelic and it's awesome......coming soon!!



Monday, 18 March 2013

Our Rockstar Producer :-)

Here's a little more about this amazing lady, who has recently joined us to produce our very first tour!


Aiyana D'Arcangelo is a freelance producer and project manager living in Fife and working in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Born and raised in southern Oregon, she has been slowly moving east over the years. After completing her undergraduate studies in Theatre at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Aiyana lived in New York for 6 years where she did production work for New York University (Tisch School of the Arts and Villa La Pietra), Robert Wilson (Watermill Center for the Arts), Lincoln Center Festival, ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ (Pace University), Cynthia Hopkins (‘Must Don't Whip 'Um’ - National Tour), and St. Ann's Warehouse. Since moving to Scotland in 2011, Aiyana has completed a post-graduate degree in Managing in the Creative Industries at the University of St Andrews and worked with the Dundee Rep, Edinburgh International Science Festival, Poorboy Theatre, and David Leddy / Fire Exit. She is very excited to be joining First Bicycle in developing a Scottish and North American tour of Elspeth’s beautiful new play, ‘The Idiot at the Wall.’


Welcome Aiyana :-)

Meanwhile, I'm in some luscious surroundings deep in the Lake District, working on a re-draft of 'The Idiot at the Wall', talking to venues, and writing some new stuff too :-) Oh, and roaming around the hills singing etc. You know how it goes...Thank you to the very obliging landlady (my sister, Ruth)...she's ace :-)

Love and Light! 

Elspeth xo