The Vanis

’It‘s like the Loch Ness Monster,’ says author Robert Thomson. ’If they actually discovered a monster. it would ruin the whole thing. The fact that it hasn‘t been solved is what makes it interesting.‘ Another haunting home-grown mystery is the subject ofThomson‘s new play. the story ofthree lighthouse keepers . who disappeared from Flannen Isle, offthe Scottish West coast. without trace or explanation in December 1900. Unlike the Nessie legends, the bones of the story are historical fact and hard evidence, but they have been fleshed out by endless imaginative speculation, as well as . poetic treatment by Wilfrid William Gibson, and Flannen Isle now shares favourite-Caledonian-myth status with our elusive aquatic friend.

’I was reading an Arthur C. Clark-type book on mysterious happenings.’ says Thomson. explaining how he came to write the play. ’Flannen Isle was the only story about Scotland and it reminded me | ofthe poem, which I‘d read at school. The book actually detailed the lighthouse log-book entries, which were fascinating, and so we‘ve created a drama incorporating material from the book with Gibson‘s fictionalised poem. The log l entries speak ofthis unnameable : terror which overwhelmed the island, it‘s very strange; they speak ! ofthings like a terrible storm, with

Keepers Of The Deep Sea Light

waves crashing against the top ofthe lighthouse, 1()0ft tall. yet the Isle of Lewis. 30 miles away from Flannen Isle. reported no storm on the night in question. They never actually put a name to what was happening, but the records also mention things like one ofthe keepers weeping. and another one praying, things which don‘t appear anywhere else in the


It's undeniably a chilling and fascinating tale, one to send


shivers running down the

spine, and the production makes the most ofthe spookiness, weaving dance, music and film into the narrative to build up the atmosphere. ‘I think there was definitely something supernatural involved.‘ says Thomson. ’No one will ever know, nothing can be proved. but it‘s such a freaky story, it begs to be looked at from that angle. Some people did put forward ’rational’ explanations the Lighthouse Commission and the Government said a freak wave must have washed them off the island - but all the evidence points to something paranormal. In the play. as well as the lighthouse keepers. there are also three female characters. the dancers. who also read the poem. We use the idea of threes— three keepers. three witches it‘s a Scottish symbol. almost. this kind ofsupernatural thing, like in Macbeth; it‘s a similar idea. Essentially, we‘re exploring things like fear, madness. superstition and death. We don‘t present any cast-iron theories. although we do play up some aspects more than others. At the end, we‘re basically saying to people. that‘s the story, what do you think might have happened‘." (Sue Wilson) I Keepers of the Deep-Sea Light (Fringe) Big Stramash Theatre. Harry Younger Hall (Venue 13) 26—31 Aug. 2pm, £3 (£2).


Sue Wilson picks the shows guaranteed to wake you up during siesta time.

I Between the Teeth Fast-moving black comedy from previous Fringe First winner Andrew Buckland. exploring the treachery and deceptive nature of language in an exciting. tightly-controlled , performance offering 5 plenty of food for thought. Between the 'I'eeth (Fringe) 'l‘heutre For Africa. The .N'etherhow


Funny business

As debate rages about whether stand-up comedians are ruining the Fringe, there seem to be increasing efforts to give wannabe comics a helping hand -the So You Think You’re Funny? competition, the growing number of student awards and, for the second time, a series of seminars giving advice and ideas on a career in comedy. The three-day event, open to

all, will focus in turn on writing, |

performing and television, with panelists including TV and radio controllers, comedy promoters and established performers.

Pete McCarthy, Perrier runner-up last '

yearwith The Hangover Show, and currently presenter of 8882’s Edinburgh Nights, will be chairing all three sessions. ‘The idea is basically to tap into all the talent that’s up here and provide a forum where people can exchange ideas,’ he explains. ‘We’re hoping to get a lot of younger people along, from student groups and so on. The whole charm of Edinburgh is having amateurs and professionals all In the same town at the same time, but

Pete McCarthy

the Festival’s become more segmented, so the students go to the

Fringe Club and the professionals go to

the Assembly Rooms - it’s nice to give

people the

just to open up some channels, provide

chance to meet and mix,

some contacts, make people aware of the horrible pitfalls there are.’

So what does McCarthy make of the brouhaha about stand-up vs the Spirit of the Fringe? ’I think it’s all got a bit out of proportion,’ he says. ‘Comedians are being blamed for everything from the decline of British theatre to the kidnapping of John McCarthy. People forget that the Fringe is a free market, all it does is reflect what’s going on in the arts more widely. Twelve years ago when I first came here there was no stand-up at all; it was a discredited form performed by people like Jimmy

g Tarbuck. The rise of stand-up over the

last decade has coincided with cutbacks in arts funding; it’s far harder to find comedy work in theatre, or to get

; funding and you can’t blame

comedians forthat. Yes, there’s a case to be answered on £8.50 for a 50-minute one-man show, and by people who are wheeling out the same stuff they did last year, but I do think they’re in a minority.’ (Sue Wilson)

No Laughing Matter ’91 (Fringe) Pleasance (Venue 33) 555 6550, 23—25 Aug, 14pm, free (tickets in advance from venue).

( Venue30) 556 95 79. 23. | go. 28. 30.414); 1pm. uses (£3.50). 1 I Richard III Following their acclaimed [)r Fttustus last year. (‘ambridge Experimental Theatre tackle Shakespeare's warped hunchback in their inimitable radical style. Richard I I I (Fringe) ( 'umbridge [th'perinientu/ Theatre. TIL 'I'oeut Marco 's ( Venue 95’) 229 8830. until}! Aug. 2pm. [5 (f4). 3 I Keepers of the Deep Sea i Light A poetic and visually striking adaptation ofthe l l

Flannen Isle mystery - the story of three lighthouse

keepers on a lonely , outpost off the Scottish ! West coast. who disappeared in 1900 ' without trace or l explanation. ' Keepers of the Deep Sea 5 Light (Fringe) Big Struntush 'I'heutre, Harry Younger Hull ( Venue l3)

20-31Aug. 2pm. 13(1)?) >

I Trophy Hunters A

musical comedy which Spuming solid uses a big game httnt asa sustenance, sit springboard for an nearthe back examination ofwhitc and listen to the imperialist attitudes to the intermittent ’dark continent‘andits l groaning of people. emptytums.

Trophy Hunters ( Fringe) p Theatre for Africa. The Netherbow (Venue 30) 556 9579, 22, 24, 27. 29, 3] Aug. 1pm. £4.50 (£3.50).

1 I D.|.V.0.R.C.E. The 'tonguc-in-chcek story ofa .woman's quest for happiness. inspired by those heart—rcndin‘ songs by the queens t)fC&W'. performed by ‘Manchestcr's hottest theatre company". 1).]. V. ().R. C. 12'. (Fringe) Roaring Girls 'l’heutre ; Company. ( 'ulton (‘entre (Venue [19) ()6! 912/. anti/31 Aug. 2pm. [3.50 [(1150).



The List 33 2‘) August 199l 27