Witnessing fancy’s images

IMG_1197Freshly coiffed, here I lie beside the saltire of my father’s country and ponder the fact that, by first thing this beautiful morning, all evidence of the film-makers had gone from the beach, save the scaffold – now charred and worn from the work to which it had been pressed. A lonely relic among the dunes, we hope it will be left until reclaimed by wind and weather over the years to come. An empty stage is always evocative and – no matter how briefly peopled – ghosts persist, as we boys know better than most. Reading the signs of other realms of existence – an excellent tracker – head down, I charge along employing my spaniel-isms; the poetry, the images of time and place, footprint and breath; what once was there and now is there no more.   Shakespeare, who seems to have understood everything, through the character of Macbeth, his own creation, shows us that he understood the difference between dog and dog:  the swift, the slow, the subtle,/The housekeeper, the hunter.  Interesting isn’t it, that at the point of choosing a suitably ruthless murderer to take on the assault on Banquo, his own best friend, Macbeth reaches for his knowledge of mankind’s truest companion? Yes, we have our uses, and our talents; ‘bounteous nature’ throbs in our veins. You may have left us, Michael Fassbender, but I – a small spaniel – can detect you still! Other recent posts have reflected on the sudden transformation wrought here by the arrrival of the Macbeth shoot.  In the village car park, now bereft of all the trainers, vans, equipment, coaches and trucks, only the marquee survives. No doubt by the end of the week, that will have vanished, too. The other sort of magic has all gone. But only in a sense.

If you would like to see some other pictures of the filming, you will find them here:


Giants’ robes and a dwarfish spaniel

photo courtesy of Bamburgh Castle

These beetling black figures, viewed from the castle crow’s nest, are not about to besiege or attack Bamburgh but are in fact, even as I write this, busy about their harmless work, peopling the dunes with suitably clad extras for the new film of Macbeth.  Long inky capes are the order of the day, and there are masses of them: a high five to the firm that landed that order, methinks!  Outside the pavilion on the village side of the castle, these dubious figures are gathering in inky swathes, delivered by incongrous mini-vans from the shoot head headquarters in the car park across the road.

Theatrical transformation is so thrilling; the everyday is briefly touched by a dash of stardust and little creatures like us are caught in its sparkle: a  wondrous world wherein, as in a dream, a bush atop a sand dune is easily supposed a bear. We cannot help but wonder what these busy and numerous newcomers, professionals and amateurs alike – with their boredom-redeeming Sudokus, thermal coffee-mugs and knitting – are making of this place, but we hope they like it here.  Knowing that, by the time we trundle along the sands on our familiar way tomorrow, the Thane of Cawdor has cantered on before us, will lend a special magic to our steps. But the reality of routine is what a dog loves best:  a whiff of crushed crab on a slab of volcanic rock I’ve bounced across a hundred times is the true magic; it wrinkles my nose and sends me onward, ever onward – to seek more joy beneath the castle walls.

Glamis thou art!

IMG00362-20140222-0743An unexpected and rather disturbing sight greeted us this morning as we approached the inlet in the dunes where once, many many moons ago, the tiny port of Bamburgh  – and access to the castle’s original entrance – used to be. For there, towering over the beach was a platform of punishment, immediately putting us in mind of some medieval horror.  And that is exactly what it is intended to do;  for it, and others planned like it, have been erected by the location joiners working on a new film of Macbeth, scenes from which they are shooting in and beneath Bamburgh Castle this week. A massive marquee fit for a dog show has taken over the village’s car park, halving its capacity, and these wooden instruments of torture and display are being deployed to settle seamlessly alongside the telegraph poles they do remarkably resemble.

As we bound along at daybreak, it is not infrequently that we evade capture on camera, whether in the background to something ecological or ornithological. Only a fortnight ago there were delightful discarded breakfast baps to be had as we burst through a crush of trailers, parked for a good couple of days in order to capture in ‘the can’ precisely three minutes of action for  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Pieter Breughel the Elder, from 'The Triumph of Death'
Pieter Breughel the Elder, from ‘The Triumph of Death’

Encouraging the villagers to embrace the arrival of the butcher and his fiend-like queen this coming week – for whom our little family, as enthusiastic Shakespeareans, have always had a lot of time anyway (there but for the grace of God, and all that) – the production team begged indulgence for any inconvenience caused, commending the fact that they’d be using Shakespeare’s original text: much mirth indeed! Let’s hope it’s as powerful a film version as good old Polanski’s, in which a friend of ours as a sixth former decades ago enjoyed an exciting week’s work as an extra. A play it’s incredibly easy to do badly, on stage or film, let’s hope the glories of the castle and its outlook over the North Sea lend the director and players a hand, as they did when we gathered within the precincts of the keep for a touring version with a very small cast. That night the rooks stood in for ravens but the temple-haunting martlets played themselves, transforming a theatrical challenge on a chill late August night with moments of pure and emotive theatre, darting around and about us, punctuating and endorsing dear old Duncan’s reflection upon arrival that:

This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.

And both he, and Banquo – who agrees – are right:  for the horrors that unfold are of mankind’s making, like the scaffolds now springing up around and about an ancient capital, where Oswald ruled and Aidan served, and to which folk increasingly turn when wanting to evoke another world, another place.