Fringe Physical Theatre

The Lady Vanishes

The Haining House, Selkirk

Mary Brennan

four stars

GHOSTS and old country houses are the stuff of many a spooking on the Fringe. Last weekend, however, Dudendance Theatre spirted audiences away to an 18th century manor house with, it’s said, a veritable apparation. Haining House, by Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, is set within wooded enclaves that spill down to the edge of a picturesque lake. Centuries of local and family history have played out at Haining, and as we looked out across the lake at twilight, a lone figure in flowing white was like a lure to eerie imaginings – which is, of course, the effect that Dudendance’s spectral pageant is meant to trigger.

If an earlier work, Borderlands (at Dryburgh Abbey), benefitted from the reminders of mortality in both graveyard and ruins, at Haining it was the sight, sound and smell of drenched nature that created a context of change and decay for the white-clad forms that silently melted in and out of the trees or drifted from the shadows around buildings. And though Dudendance had devised a soundscape for when we reached the house, the sense of unease and melancholy stirred up by the solitary wanderers was heightened by crescendos of birds cawing. Shakespeare's “Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood” suddenly became an intense reality. No sign of Macbeth inside the house, but wraith-like beings – paused, as if they’d morphed out of the plaster – and a sepia film filled a wall with the lost and drowning youth of yesterday, while singer Fiona Soe Paing gave voice to haunted lament.

Whatevcr secret sorrows linger still at Haining, Dudendance’s exquisite interventions seem to reach below the surface of the modern world, reminding us the past is ever with us even if we can’t always see it.