Not long after the Jacobite Rebellion, Captain Simon Fraser of Knockie published a set of airs and melodies – traditional Scottish folk songs which had only ever been passed down by people actually singing them. Fraser was the first to write them down, but caused outrage when he refused to publish the lyrics, in Gaelic, for fear of alienating the Highland Society. Hamish MacDonald’s play is a montage of memories and stories of the Captain (Matthew Zajac) as he contemplates his life on his deathbed.
What Dogstar do so well is telling and performing stories: they acknowledge their audience, use puppetry, quiet and reflective scenes as well as much livelier, almost absurd, moments and give a well-rounded sense of both Fraser’s life and the context in which he lived. Intertwined with live music from Fraser’s collection, the play maintains a fresh sense of energy and nostalgia. Zajac performs alongside renowned singer Alyth McCormack, who, with a very versatile costume, becomes his “everywoman”, interchanging roles throughout the piece. Dogstar was formed out of the original production of The Captain’s Collection, but some of the music used then has been swapped and instead of being performed in the round, it is now end on. It isn’t the first time we’ve seen this play on the circuit and it probably won’t be the last.
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