The first production of the year from the Traverse Theatre will be opening this week as a work in progress.
Me and the Traverse worked together on the poster before Christmas to tease Andy Greig’s visually rich and euphonic poetry into a working image. I always work off a script for visuals, but this time I had to measure my reading. Written as a poem, the prose crashes like waves, heavy and atmospheric of Orkney. Each line was so nuanced and connotative I kept finding myself re-reading passages just for pleasure.
We took the shoot to my own local The King’s Wark, in Edinburgh’s traditional Shore, for a genuine seafarer’s vintage. No strangers to Leith, Tam and Lewis knew the venue and charmed coffee out of the staff for us to warm up with.
Since the temperature hasn’t changed a great deal since December, I am looking forward to cosying up to the show and seeing how it has developed from two glasses of whisky and some old maps.
There is a lot to be said for the cold and the rain to bring out a darker side of the imagination. Mid May, and I was expecting a slow incline of daylight and a steady blooming of heat. We should all know better. Five degrees and a lead sky. The Arctic howl of December through our clothes, a flowing mire beneath our jaded shoes. The worst shock to the system is the disappointment, that we have to wait in suspense for our summer to ever arrive.
The upshot is that I started touring my archive of the images I took over Winter for some consolation on how bad it can get. We need no reminding of the dark once the sun is baking our pavements again so I am happy to post them here for now. Tragically enough, these images of a very sombre Edinburgh Haar are only about a month old. Scotland, as ever, defies the definition of Winter.
Down in Leith it is business as usual. A busy football Saturday, pubs rammed. The opposing ends of Hibernian Stadium invisible to each other through a thick wall of white, according to reports. Shops’ shutters up, dogs to be walked, traffic lights green, football practice at 10, paper supplements, bus stop queue, Kirkgate pigeons, shopping bags at the bar, traffic lights red. And all the while, a heavy silence. Like holding the world on mute as the white envelopes everything. I walk around and see some of the most banal things blown out of proportion. A woman and her dog, burnished like two spots of ink on canvas. A flock of seagulls, noiseless from nowhere, bluster limply overhead like debris in a gale. A father and daughter emerge kicking a football in the Links. Shrouded in a cavern of grey, their breath on the air like coal trains as they run directionless, only to be swallowed again into nothing.
And a solitary figure, who seems more at home in the blankness than anyone. Hi Rab:-p
I Teamed up with Edinburgh musicians Hiva Oa to produce their publicity stills at the start of the year. It wouldn’t do us justice to say it was just a really good shoot. Apart from everything working out to plan, it was no sweat on all fronts. This could almost be a 6-step prescription for the perfect shoot.
First We shot in Leith. Well of course we did.
Second We used a great location with tonnes of possibility. We weren’t shy of creative
ideas for a second. There were surfaces, bookshelves, tables and wallpaper,
quite literally, to the ceiling.
Third We kept on the move. We took our gear to the stairs, we went outside, we tried
loads of space and made the most of natural light. We used the props we found
and didn’t weigh ourselves down. Just keeping it really simple.
Fourth We kept it really simple. Sort of. We lit a temple worth of incense to haze out our room. We even bunged an old fluorescent tan lamp into action to do wild
things to the shadows and spread the most eerie shade of green over everything.
Sweet! (but blinding) Things got so out of hand I even shot a roll of film.
Fifth We wrapped up and had a celebrated with a crate of wine and fell into the trap of
swapping an inexhaustible supply of YouTube videos. Basically when the wine is out,
you are on to a winner.