The Buke of the Howlat

Brodie Castle Grounds

September-October 2018

Based on a satirical 1446 Old Scots poem by Richard Holland, (which became the second text to be printed in Scotland) The Buke of the Howlat tells the story of a young owl who is dismayed by his appearance and goes to the Peacock-Pape to see if there is anything he can do. After a conference of all the birds, Mother Nature is asked what can be done. She asks each bird to lend a feather to revolutionise the Howlat’s appearance. However, rather than being grateful, the little owl reacts with pride, arrogance and defiance.

Performed by a stellar core cast of four actor-musicians, Andy Clark, Angela Hardie, Gary Collins and Annie Grace, with two young musicians forming a band led by and with music composed by Quee McArthur, Morna Young’s new version of the text led the audience from forest clearing to leafy glade in the very landscape where the poem was set.

The rest of the performance company were made up of 45 community participants, from a local school, individual participants and the Moray College HND drama students. Vividly choreographed by Ruby Worth, the woods were brought alive with bird movement. Stunning design by Becky Minto responded to the natural beauty of the site.

The Buke of the Howlat was a commission from and keynote event of the Findhorn Bay Arts Festival 2018.

Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

After night falls in the woods at Brodie Castle, just west of Forres, something remarkable is happening. Among the trees, there’s light and colour and wonderful music, mixed with the sounds of voices speaking Scots; and there’s a cast of more than 50 community performers and professional actors, all passionately committed to bringing back to life the ancient Scots epic The Buke of the Howlat, written almost 600 years ago, in the woods around nearby Darnaway Castle, by Orkney-born clergyman and poet Richard Holland, a servant of the Douglas family. The show begins with the four songbirds – nightingale, blackbird, thrush and lark, played with terrific flair by Andy Clark, Annie Grace, Angela Hardie and Gary Collins, in gorgeously-coloured costumes by designer Becky Minto…in the hands of performers such as Grace and Clark the sheer beauty and magic of Holland’s poetry is beginning to weave its spell, singing out across the centuries. There’s no overstating the scale of what producer Kresanna Aigner, Young and director Ben Harrison have achieved in presenting this important and joyous show, as part of Aigner’s increasingly impressive Findhorn Bay Festival; it feels as though a fire has been lit in Moray that will not be extinguished, in terms of bringing Holland’s work, and the culture it represents, back to life.

Keith Bruce, The Herald

The community performers in Morna Young’s adaptation of Robert Holland’s early Scottish text were an essential part of Ben Harrison’s production, which was a brave response to a challenging brief from festival director and producer Kresanna Aigner. The script gives the four professional actors – Annie Grace, Angela Hardie, Andy Clark and Garry Collins – a tough brief as both the players in the story (with Hardie the highly ambiguous owl of the title) and the narrators as blackbird, thrush, nightingale and lark respectively. That Young keeps faith with much of the content and political intent of Holland’s text, and supplies a deal of its historical context as well, via the four feathered friends, is undeniable…An achievement of which the performers, amateur and especially professional, can be proud.