Ályth is again delighted to be teaming up with writer and playwright Hamish Macdonald and award winning actor Matthew Zajac in a re run of Dogstar Theatre‘s production The Captain’s Collection. Performed first at the Highland Festival back in 1999 this was Ályth’s first professional outing as an actor. Ályth has always kept a keen interest in Dogstar remaining an associate artist with the company.

The Captain’s Collection: Originally the brainchild of Blazin’Fiddles’ Bruce MacGregor, this award-winning music theatre production vibrantly dramatises the life and work of Captain Simon Fraser – fiddler, composer, publisher, dispossessed laird and Empire soldier – whose 1816 collection The Airs and Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland and the Isles, preserved a wealth of ancient Gaelic songs and tunes for posterity. Directed by Alison Peebles.

It was performed at this year’s Celtic Connections in Glasgow and will be touring throughout Scotland April & May 2012

Fraser & Lord Lovat's GhostImage copyright Andrew Wilson

Here is a review:

“The Captain’s Collection, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Published on 27 January 2012

Marianne Gunn

Dogstar Theatre Company’s revived show tells the story of Captain Simon Fraser, best known for his 1816 collection of Gaelic songs, The Airs and Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland and the Isles.

What is nice about this short bio-play is that is doesn’t romanticise the truth or treat Fraser like a laudable hero. Instead, it highlights his flaws and weaknesses and perhaps makes him a far more accessible subject.

Played by handsomely craggy Matthew Zajac, Fraser’s life is told from where he starts out as ambitious and foolhardy until his deathbed when he doubts his own achievements and is oft-haunted by the Highlanders who think he turned his back on his heritage. Through the character device of Mairi (played superbly by singer Alyth McCormack) his motives are questioned and his denial of his own responsibility for his errors examined. McCormack’s haunting vocals are also the perfect addition to the live music from Jonny Hardie and Ingrid Henderson.

Directed by Alison Peebles, the staging is simple yet the treatment of two short stories stand out: firstly, the comedy of the puppetry segment which made the two performers much more genial and, secondly, the cleverly told Scottish folk legend about the musical fairies in the mountain, which was laugh out loud funny, especially as there was a little corpsing when things went awry.

Draped fabric was a motif which worked well throughout and McCormack’s clever costuming (when it stayed put) was also a nice touch. Informative and entertaining with one witty referendum gibe, it’s worth catching on its spring tour.

At Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh tonight, then touring Scotland in May.”



Review: the captivating tale of The Captain’s Collection

Dogstar Theatre - The Captain's Collection - Picture by Andrew WilsonDogstar Theatre – The Captain’s Collection – Picture by Andrew Wilson

Published on Thursday 10 May 2012 08:24

THE Captain’s Collection, by Hamish MacDonald, was first performed in the tiny Stratherrick Hall way back in 1999 – but if Dogstar Theatre Company’s 2012 revival of one of its earliest productions is anything to go by, the tale of Captain Simon Fraser, fiddler, composer, publisher, dispossessed laird and Empire soldier, has lost none of its vitality in the intervening 13 years.

Captain Fraser’s story is not a particularly well known one, even on his home turf of Stratherrick, on the southern shore of Loch Ness. But Matthew Zajac and Alyth McCormack brought his tale to life in vivid fashion in the Marble Hall at Mount Stuart on a memorable night for the small audience who witnessed it.

Briefly, Captain Fraser’s purpose for much of his life was to collect a wealth of Gaelic songs and tunes, write them down and see them published so that future generations might enjoy the native music of the Highlands as he enjoyed it himself: a laudable aim, to be sure, but not one whose pursuit earned the universal acclaim, encouragement or even sympathy of those who knew him.

In short, Captain Fraser, like most people when they suffer from single-minded tunnel vision, could be a bit of a fool at times. But Zajac portrayed him as much more than a simple figure of fun; though often plagued by doubt, he was also a man of great passion, honour and, in the walks of life that grabbed his attention, no little talent, and thanks to the passion of Zajac’s own performance, it was impossible, however infuriating Fraser may have seemed times, not to feel some sympathy for him.

More understated, but equally captivating, was Alyth McCormack’s performance as a variety of supporting cast members, most notably Fraser’s long-suffering wife – frequently driven to near-distraction by her husband’s passion for what must have seemed at the time to have been causes less than vital to the couple’s day-to-day existence.

Superb live music from Jonny Hardie on the fiddle and Ingrid Henderson on the keyboard and harp was the perfect complement to a top-notch performance; the only down side was the size of the audience, perhaps put off by ticket prices which weren’t the cheapest and by alternative attractions elsewhere in the form of the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival, but those who did decide to give the play a try could consider themselves to have been well rewarded.”