Review: the captivating tale of The Captain’s Collection

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

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.