Rare treat for theatre-go­ers

The Oban Times - - News -

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 iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­net.com

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