Rare treat for theatre-goers
THEATRE- GOERS in Morvern had a rare treat recently when Phil Barrada, writer and creative director of the new Highland-based Mangonel Theatre Company, presented two stunning one-act plays in the hall of Ardtornish House.
The first, ‘Mallory - Beyond Everest’, was written and first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe by actor and mountaineer John Burns. In June 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanished on their final push toward the unconquered summit of Everest and were never seen again. In his superb presentation John Burns speculated what demons might have haunted Mallory had he lived. The famous Mallory spent five days in 1906 climbing Ben Nevis in his first full mountaineering trip in the British Isles. Five years later he was invited to Mull but went to the Alps instead.
The second, ‘The Rhum Plants’ written by Phil Baarda, was performed by four local actors who are current or recent drama graduates of Inverness College. It is based on the real life story of a botanical fraud on Rum in the 1940s by Heslop Harrison, professor of botany at King’s College, Durham University.
Heslop Harrison, who had been visiting Rum (then spelt with an ‘h’) for some time, began to announce he had found many rare plants. Suspicions were raised and classical scholar and botanist John Raven, son of Charles Earle Raven, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge, was asked to investigate. John Raven’s 1948 report, which can be found online at archive.bsbi.org.uk/25-1-PrestonRaven, is almost a work of drama in itself and inspired the basis of much of the play. By coincidence, John Raven came to live in the West Highlands in 1954 when he married the daughter of Mr and Mrs Owen Hugh Smith who owned Ardtornish Estate. Here he discovered many rare alpine plants on the neighbouring hills. It was surely appropriate that Phil Baarda brought ‘The Rhum Plants’ to Ardtornish House last week and that John Raven’s widow Faith and son Hugh were in the audience. Iain Thornber firstname.lastname@example.org