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Environmental and ecological readings

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Philippe Laplace

Part II. Nature, the Environment and the Posthuman: Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

‘Land-scaping’ the Scottish Stage and Drama

Danièle Berton-Charrière

Texte intégral

I. Preliminary remarks

1This paper focuses on what Scottish landscapes and land-scaping can mean and what they can actually be, whether they are living, lived in, or represented as pre, post or simply human.

2As Edward W. Soja wrote:

  • 1 Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies. The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London, (...)

It is necessary to begin by making as clear as possible the distinction between space per se, space as a contextual given, and socially-based spatiality, the created space of social organization and production. From a materialistic perspective whether mechanistic or dialectical, time and space in the general or abstract sense represent the objective form of matter. Time, space, and matter are inextricably connected, with the nature of this relationship being a central theme in the history and philosophy of science. This essentially physical view of space has deeply influenced all forms of spatial analysis, whether philosophical, theoretical or empirical, whether applied to the movement of heavenly bodies or to the history and landscape of human society.1

3Dealing with a specific sector of literature and performing arts, this study is also a reflection on the passage from mimesis to ekphrasis and hypotyposis in Scottish dramatic and theatrical landscaping.

  • 2 Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster, Renascence Editions, An Online Repository of Works Printed in Engli (...)

4In the Scholemaster (±1570), Roger Ascham reckons that ‘The whole doctrine of Comedies and Tragedies, is a perfite imitation, or faire liuelie painted picture of the life of euerie degree of man’.2 Although the evolution of drama has proved this assertion to be rather inexact as a dogmatic set of principles and guidelines, and though questioned, fundamentally, mimesis can be acknowledged as an essential common feature and process to both theatre and painting or graphic representation. Yet, there is a further dimension as Reynolds explained in his ‘Discourse XIII’:

  • 3 Joshua Reynolds, Sir, Discourses on Art, ed. by Robert R. Wark (London: Yales University Press, 197 (...)

This is what I would understand by poets and painters being allowed to dare every thing; for what can be more daring, than accomplishing the purpose and end of art, by a complication of means, none of which have their archetypes in actual nature?
So far therefore is servile imitation from being necessary, that whatever is familiar or in any way reminds us of what we see and hear every day, perhaps does not belong to the higher provinces of art, either in poetry or painting. The mind is to be transported, as Shakespeare expresses it, beyond the ignorant present, to ages past. Another and a higher order of beings is supposed; and to those beings every thing which is introduced into the work must correspond.3

5Since composite theatre enjoys the intersemiotic combination of textual and visual components, both representational arts –theatrical and pictorial – can conversely respond to each other in a dialogical connection. Besides, ‘within’ or ‘without’ performance, the dramatic text calls imaginary pictures to the minds of directors, actors, spectators, audiences and readers of all kinds. Staging permits to verbalise, concretise and visualise the virtual content of the dramatic text – fable and diegesis together – and therefore, this paper will deal with its figurative and abstract landscaping through an illustrative, though limited, corpus of Scottish plays. Their contextual scenery is definitely rural, urban settings having been discarded to reduce the scope of this present research.

II. How can the Scottish landscape be defined?

6In ‘Landscape: beyond the view’ (a site about England), a logical and sensible expansion of the basic and very general definition of ‘landscape’ is given:

  • 4 < http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/file/2694394>, p. 5, [accessed 6 March 2015].

Landscape is more than just ‘the view’. It can be the ever-changing backdrop to our daily lives, as much as the places we seek out for leisure. It can mean a park, a piece of wasteland, a beach, a mountain, a forest. It is also about how people relate to these places and to nature – what they value about it, and how they respond to changes in the landscape.4

7The authors defend the notion of ‘the interaction of natural components and cultural patterns’ (Natural England, p. 3). For them, ‘landscape is a human concept that reflects and as such encompasses how we view the land; how we hear, smell and feel our surroundings; and the feelings, memories or associations that they evoke. In short, people’s perceptions turn land into landscape.’ (Natural England, p. 3)

  • 5 http://www.snh.gov.uk/about-scotlands-nature/scotlandslandscapes/landscapes-varieties/[accessed 6 M (...)
  • 6 ibid and <http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/looking-after-landscapes/lca/> [accessed 6 March 2015].

8The National Scottish Heritage website provides a ‘landscape map’5 which shows the diversity offered by Scotland, the landscapes of which enjoy a large geographic and natural soil variety, scientifically analysed: they have all been classified and mapped through the technical process called ‘Landscape Character Assessment’ (L.C.A.). It is a standard system used to identify, describe, classify and map the variety of landscapes: it helps explain what makes them different from each other.6

9Countering clichés, the L.C.A. device demonstrates that there are many landscapes (rolling heather moorlands, pine forest covered hillsides, fields full of grazing sheep for example), each defining a locus or a region such as the Southern Uplands, Central Lowlands, Highlands, East coast belt, and the islands… and this from deep down the ground and soil to the surface:

  • 7 <http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/livinglandscapes/soils/soillandscapes.asp> [accessed 6 March 2015].

Although we are grouping the islands of Scotland together into one region, they contain a wide variety of soil types and landscapes.
Western Isles
The landscape of the Outer and Inner Hebrides is very variable. This produces frequent changes in the soils over short distances. The pattern of outcrops and hollows, slopes, and depths of parent material are involved. Vast expanses of peat dominate the landscape.7

10Paradoxically, what is generally seen as natural landscape is scientifically proven man-made in some parts of Scotland (the Southern Uplands for example) because the top soil has been imported one way or another since early human settlings. It is a form of artificiality that goes against general assumption and overall designation:

  • 8 ‘The soil landscapes of Scotland’, <http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/livinglandscapes/soils/soillandscapes.asp> [accessed 6 March 2015].

Few of the familiar scenes described here are ‘natural’. Apart from the higher hill tops, virtually all the land in the Southern Uplands has been modified by mankind for his own purposes. Historically, most of the area was covered by mature woodland, as indeed was much of Scotland. This was rapidly cleared by early human settlers to provide fuel, building materials and land for agriculture. The soil and vegetation patterns in many areas have changed drastically as a result, particularly at lower altitudes. The landscape that we see around us is, in effect, a man-made one.8

11This construction of a nature that is a deceptive imitation of its primitive ancestry, recalls the history of gardens as well as the part played by Art and artifice in their evolution. Besides, the diversity and artificial naturalness of the Scottish landscape – taken as a general entity – evoke what Michel Foucault called heterotopia in Of Other Spaces and what, according to him, theatre and cinema are, intrinsically:

  • 9 Michel Foucault, ‘Des Espaces Autres’, March 1967. Translated by Jay Miskowiec, Michel Foucault, ‘O (...)

Third principle. The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. Thus it is that the theater brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another; thus it is that the cinema is a very odd rectangular room, at the end of which, on a two-dimensional screen, one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space, but perhaps the oldest example of these heterotopias that take the form of contradictory sites is the garden.9

12These concepts will be used in the analysis of ‘land-scaping’ the Scottish stage and drama that follows. The representation of Scottish landscape onstage can be studied through Michel Foucault’s examination of the mirror as both a utopia and a heterotopia. One can recall that the comparison between the two reflective framed spaces was current in the Renaissance when theatre was regarded as a mirror held up to the world:

  • 10 Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’, <http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/-janzb/courses/hum3930b/foucault1.htm> [accessed 6 March 2015].

The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror.
But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am.
The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.10

III. Dramatic and theatrical landscapes

  • 11 Simon Shepherd and Mick Wallis, Drama/Theatre/Performance (2006; London: Routledge, 2008), p. 24.

13Scottish theatre offers a large variety of productions ranging from, at one end of the spectrum, naturalistic, picturesque (whether stereotyped or grandiose and sublime…), more or less mimetic figurative representations of Nature, subservient to a framing world outside, to, at the other end, freestanding drama, not essentially or necessarily reflecting any contextual reality or even referring to it. As Shepherd and Wallis assert: ‘when he [Dryden] spoke of nature at a higher pitch he implied that this was something inside, rather than outside, the play.’11

  • 12 <http://www.pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com/pitlochry-festival-theatre/gallery-and-shop/gallery-and-shop.html> [accessed 6 March 2015]

14Dramatic and theatrical landscapes can of course be regarded as an interpretative and symbolic contextual view of scenery, a scenography of Nature, with vegetation and wild life, what was called the ‘green world’ in Renaissance drama. David Greig ironically calls the stereotyped genre the ‘glens and lochs’ plays. Expected and appreciated by large Scottish and non-Scottish audiences, they consist of a collage of clichés bathed or even steeped in a make-believe atmosphere of happiness to the sounds of pipers accompanying dancing people within a pastoral frame (recalling painted scenes from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment). Very few Scottish modern and contemporary playwrights are concerned with this type of setting, rarely featured in sets onstage. Yet, this sort of representation is still very popular in the pictorial art: last summer’s exhibition in Pitlochry’s theatre12 during the festival, was quite representative of this current.

  • 13 Sir Philip Sidney, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, The Renascence Editions, An Online Repositor (...)
  • 14 Guercino (Giovan Francesco Barbieri), Et in Arcadia Ego (c. 1618), Galleria Nazionle d’Arte Antico, (...)
  • 15 Gérard Genette, Palimpsestes (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1982), p. 12.

15The joyful – though ambivalent – Arcadia pastoral frame, praised by Philip Sidney13 in his time, is rarely figured out in drama set in the Highlands and islands by contemporary authors. Looming death is even more exposed and not hidden, implicit, as in Guercino’s or Poussin’s ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ representations.14 Yet, one has to admit, that in painting as in some popular theatrical productions, what Gérard Genette’s called architextual15 expections are focussed on traditional stereotypes.

  • 16 David Harrower, Dark Earth (London: Faber and Faber, 2003).

16In the plays under scrutiny, neither ambivalent Edenic nor Arcadian landscapes partake of a made-up construction based on other forms of contrasts, on direct or indirect, oppositions between urban and rural settings and customs (which is at the core of David Harrower’s Dark Earth16). What is also striking is the difference, highly emphasized, between mainland and islands. In this respect, wild coasts in-between land and sea, bear the same characteristics as the islands: beautiful and bleak, attractive and repulsive, barren and tempting, pure and given in to crime and atrocities.

  • 17 David Greig, Outlying Islands (London: faber and faber, 2002), p. 18.

17In David Greig’s Outlying Islands, ornithologist John tells his colleague: ‘Robert, we have been on this island which is forty miles away from the nearest inhabited land which itself is some forty miles from a hospital if we could get there given that the boat will not come for us till the end of summer and we have no radio so we are utterly alone […].’17

  • 18 See the photograph by Euan Myles on the front cover of Henry Adam, Among Unbroken Hearts (London: N (...)

18Deserted and inhospitable, these is/lands are described as places of isolation and desolation. Rocky and tempest stricken, there, the elements seem to unite against human beings who struggle to survive and often yield to the temptation to commit suicide by jumping into the raging sea from the cliffs:18

RAY appears on the rocks. He doesn’t see AMANDA, but she sees him.
AMANDA. Don’t do it Ray. Ye’ve got too much til live for!
RAY. Amanda? What’re ye doin here?
AMANDA. Savin yur life by e look o id.
RAY. Yeah? I think I’d find a higher cliff if a wiz gonna jump.
AMANDA. Ye comin doon?
RAY. If ye dinna think it’s too dangerous.
AMANDA. Christ follow e path an dinna stray too close til e edge.

19Ray and Neil reckon that the fatal dive is deeply rooted in people’s genes. They think of the lemmings’ suicidal collective attitude, a good example of determinism in their eyes:

  • 19 Henry Adam, Among Unbroken Hearts (London: Nick Hern Book, 2001), p. 28.

RAY (shrugs). Why do lemmings jump off cliffs?
NEIL. I’ve got a theory aboot at.
[…]
Goes back to the time before the continental shift.
They’re heading for their old breeding grounds. It’s wired into their blood.
Hard drive. Couldna stop if they wanted to. Just keep on going. (Illustrates the trajectory of a lemming)19

20In many plays, landscape offers no escape, no possible freedom and no way-out apart from death.

  • 20 Zinnie Harris, Further than the Furthest Thing (London: Faber and Faber, 2000).

21Typically anti-Arcadian, the supposedly green or pastoral world has turned into a postlapsarian God forlorn, forsaken and forgotten anti-Eden, made for the very few human beings left there, mostly guilt-bound repenting and enduring sinners, suffering from their Creator’s wrath. This recalls Hieronymus Bosch’s and Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s representations of the fallen angels and men. No longer providing, the earth shows very few signs of possible Providence. Further than the Furthest Thing by Zinnie Harris exposes to the fore, how little the inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha can live on, if exterior help stops.20 Should the ship delivering the necessary food fail to turn up, survival is threatened. Even far away, war endangers the little community: a part of the population (seventeen people submitted to chance, through a lottery organised with buttons drawn out of a box) has to be sacrificed, taken to an utterly barren side of the island:

MILL. Was the time that no boat came
And no boat came, and no boat came.
[…]
At first was OK because we had plenty of crawfish
But then the crawfish season was over
But we still had the potatoes
Then the potatoes were over
So we ate the pinnawins
Then the pinnawins were over
[…]
Then was the stormy season coming and we knew that if we didn’t have no boat before, there would be no boat till after the storms had gone.
[…]
Is no way that the food we is got left is going to do for all the heads for all the months until the end of the stormy season […]
So we is all going to die
That is what we is thinking
[…]
Then someone had an idea
No point in everyone dying
[…]
And all those people is got in the boat,
All seventeen
[…]
And then he is rowed them round to the other side of the island
Is cut off – […]
But the people is left on the other side of the island…
Was long long dead. (Further than the Furthest Thing, pp. 156-60)

22Paratextual poems written by Rev. Dennis Wilkinson, Zinnis Harris’s grandfather (1949) emphasize this deterministic dimension:

‘The Rain on Tristan da Cunha’
[…] This wealth of water wears
down man’s resolution;
disables winged devotion;
yet speaks of endless tears
shed for a world of sin.

  • 21 Rev. Dennis Wilkinson, ‘The Rain on Tristan da Cunha’ in Zinnie Harris, Further than the Furthest T (...)

Christ weeps for Tristan
Last stronghold of simplicity
Where now a pagan culture comes on fast, destroying faith and charity
[… ]21

  • 22 ‘This Lonely Rock’ in Zinnie Harris, Further than the Furthest Thing.

‘This lonely Rock’
Austere, this lonely Rock at the earth’s end
Defies still all the astonished ocean;
Wildest winds of the southern heavens bend
Under this strong hand. Our Isle of Tristan
Fears no rebuke, but stands erect to face
These envious seas, unfriended. [… ]22

23Of course, Tristan da Cunha is not a Scottish island, but to playwright Zinnie Harris, it is somehow a mirrored reflection of her more familiar context.

  • 23 ‘The wet world drips / and drips and drips […] Christ for Tristan weeps: / See how the wet world dr (...)
  • 24 Linda McLean, Shimmer (London: Nick Hearn Books, 2004) p. 5

24Reverberating Rev. Dennis Wilkinson’s lines23 and recalling Noah’s flood and God’s punishment aimed at eradicating human sinners, Linda McLean’s Shimmer, depicts a biblical-like end of the world atmosphere. In torrential rain, roads, stations and tracks are flooded, entrapping the characters in a circumscribed supposedly asylum-like space: ‘Steady rain. | Heavier rain. | Deluge. Inside the B & B the rain batters on the glass summer room. The women: HEN, MISSY and PETAL run from a train that’s been stranded by flooding and fetch up outside the B&B.’24 The place is surrounded by water, like an island, as is indicated: ‘The play takes place at a B & B in Tarbet, which sits on a small piece of land between Loch Lomond and Loch Long’ (Shimmer, p. 4).

25Generally speaking, the scenery and climate somehow render the bleakness, pessimism and hopelessness of the places and their inhabitants. And yet, in many of these plays, ambivalence and paradox pervade and somehow subvert the treatment of the landscape. One of the stage directions in Shimmer indicates: ‘The landscape is very dark and very light’, emphasizing a form of fantastical weirdness (Shimmer, p. 90).

  • 25 Uvedale Price, Essays on the Picturesque, <https://archive.org/details/essays onpictures01priciala> [accessed 6 March 2015]. The author defines both concept</https> (...)
  • 26 ‘The Sublime impresses the mind at once with one great idea; it is a single blow’: Joshua Reynolds, (...)

26Despite its harshness and dangerousness, the Scottish scenery is always given as magnificent, and as picturesque,25 and it responds to what theorists have called the ‘Sublime’,26 that is to say a mixture of awe and attraction, of fear and pleasure, of beauty and horror. In The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), Tobias Smollett explicitly relates the Scottish Orkneys and Hebrides to the most romantic picturesque, through the viewpoint of Jerry Melford who writes a letter to Sir Watkin Phillips on September 3rd:

  • 27 Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771; Oxford: O.U.P., 1984), p. 236.

DEAR KNIGHT,
I am now little short of the Ultima Thule, if this appellation properly belongs to the Orkneys or Hebrides. These last are now lying before me, to the amount of some hundreds, scattered up and down the Deucalidonian sea, affording the most picturesque and romantic prospect I ever beheld – I write this letter in a gentleman’s house, near the town of Inverary which may be deemed the capital of the West Highlands, famous for nothing so much as for the stately castle begun, and actually covered in by the late duke of Argyle, at a prodigious expence – Whether it will ever be completely finished is a question.27

  • 28 Linda McLean, Shimmer (London: Nick Hern Books, 2004).
  • 29 David Greig, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (London: Faber & Faber, 2011).

27These oxymoronic features maintain the possibility for the fantastic to emerge and pervade scenes and sceneries. Linda McLean’s Shimmer28 and David Greig’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart29 are examples of this dramatic device, among many other works. Heavy snowfalls and snowed-in roads allow Prudencia to meet the Devil and creatures from traditional tales and ballads (The Strange Undoing, Part the Second / Seven, p. 60). Facing the huge white coat of flakes covering everything, Prudencia and her colleague Colin realise they are trapped in what looks like a no land, a ‘placeless place’ as Foucault would call it: ‘But now there’s no there ‘there’ any more. | It’s deep what, six feet about? […] the roads will all be closed. […] Prudencia, we’re not going anywhere tonight’ (The Strange Undoing, p. 16). First adamant, the academic little by little discovers this utopia and ukronia and its weird inhabitants:

[…] she saw, suddenly, a woman standing in the orange glow. | Evanescent she seemed – as if she were made | Of breath. All around her small children played, | Toddlers, a baby, the oldest ten at most | Silent and as pale as ghosts | Like creeping plants they climbed and clung on to the mother, | Sister climbed on sister, brother on brother, | And in the middle of it all, still in white, | The woman from the estate – singing to the night. (p. 43)

28The heroine then has a passionate love affair with the Devil himself: ‘The Devil and Prudencia dance. The Devil sings “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose”.’ (The Strange Undoing, p. 43) The fantastic dimension also reverberates what Michel Foucault explains:

  • 30 <web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf>, Architecture / Mouvement / Continuité, October 1984; Miche (...)

Bachelard’s monumental work and the descriptions of phenomenologists have taught us that we do not live in a homogeneous and empty space, but on the contrary in a space thoroughly imbued with quantities and perhaps thoroughly fantasmatic as well. The space of our primary perception, the space of our dreams and that of our passions hold within themselves qualities that seem intrinsic: there is a light, ethereal, transparent space, or again a dark, rough, encumbered space; a space from above, of summits, or on the contrary a space from below of mud; or again a space that can be flowing like sparkling water, or space that is fixed, congealed, like stone or crystal. Yet these analyses, while fundamental for reflection in our time, primarily concern internal space.30

29The juxtaposition of contrasting components is also characteristic of the islands, whether in real life or in drama: far from the rest of the world symbolised by the mainland, reminiscent of the dramatic Renaissance ‘green world’ they are both, secluded and limited specks of earth and paradoxically, open boundless arenas or stages where struggling is compulsory. Their ‘sets’ surrounded by dangerous waters in stormy weathers are breath-taking and lethal. This absence of backstage breaks their finitude and questions that of the fallen Man.

30Like human beings, landscapes have parts to play; in Shimmer, anthropomorphic ‘rain holds its breath’ (Shimmer, p. 5); it ‘pipes down but doesn’t stop because it suspects she [PETAL] isn’t going to say what she wanted to hear yet’ (Shimmer, p. 6). Then, in a reversal of roles, the rain expresses itself when PETAL becomes speechless: ‘PETAL cried a muted cry. Everything inside and outside goes quiet but the rain sings louder as something/someone edges closer’ (Shimmer p. 87). The rain can be heard – if not seen onstage; it has a voice of its own.

IV. How can these features be represented on a stage?

31The barrenness, typical of the islands and coasts, can call for an empty platform, void of any object and set. Non-decor can be opted for, to represent barren decor. It can also emphasize a post human occupation of space, and a metatheatrical return to original chaos as well as to multiple sources in a transtextual network, including medieval and Renaissance works. When desolate scenery yields its discipline, nurture and civilisation, in to nature and instincts, it stages the topoï of the extreme confrontation of Man and Nature, and of Life and Death. Hence, drama revisits the morality and miracle-like postlapsarian struggles and plays.

  • 31 <http://www.artsinmotion.co.uk/Images/an%20clo%20mor/gallery/>, [accessed 6 March 2015].

32Onstage, in a pleonasmic or in a contrastive link, decor and non-decor can cohabit, doubling or justifying each other, as in some productions of Henry Adam’s An Clò Mòr. In a 2002 Theatre Highlands and Arts in Motion joint production31, old pictures and videos were shot on a canvas backdrop: they showed the wind-swept beaches of Lewis and Harris, with women collecting the necessary natural elements to dye their wool for tweed. The device extended the performance platform. The combination contextualized the diegesis, and it created an artificial dialogue between picture and performance, between past and present, between a certain reported and recalled reality and that of the text-supported performed plot. The screen opened a veduta highlighting the complex link between Art and artifice and it gave the impression to appease the sense of claustrophobia felt by the hero, a former sailor.

  • 32 Antoinette Galbraith and Ray Cox, ‘Drama by design’ in Scotland on Sunday, August 25th 2013, p. 14- (...)

33This idea of the artistic veduta and combination of disciplined and natural landscape recalls Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia of course, but also an article entitled ‘Drama by design’32 read in the Scotland on Sunday last August in which garden designer and painter James Thomason was praised for having created a colourful garden, on the edge of the village of Levenwick on the windswept Shetlands, which he often observes from his house as seventeenth and eighteenth century manor owners used to do. The landscape, both natural and designed – tamed – is framed by the window panes and its painterly features are highlighted. Untamed nature shows in the background.

  • 33 Ian Findlay McLeod, Homers (London: Nick Hern Books, 2002).

34On a stage, heterotopia, combining spaces of different natures and functions, also enhances the metadramatic and metatheatrical dimensions of the works: the green world is a theatre within, an embedded inner-stage used for initiation and discovery. The scenography of Scottish landscape revisits the traditional and conventional nurture / nature opposition and the inhospitable landscape still remains a place of initiation which Ian Findlay McLeod keeps positive in Homers.33 It generally is a place of heritage and of eternal rest.

35In some plays, death can be seen as the last step of life, of course, but it can also be seen as a possible fusion with the soil, opening a post human union with the earth, in a form of pantheist metaphysics compensating for the suffering imposed upon by Christian endurance and patience on earth. Poetry and / or the culture of the Celts may account for this dimension.

  • 34 Henry Adam, Among Unbroken Hearts (London: Nick Hern Books, 2011).

36This idea of fusion, of complete communion between Man and Nature, can be found in Henry Adam’s Among Unbroken Hearts.34 Sitting on the cliffs and watching the sea appease the characters when they are distressed and lost. When Ray takes him for a walk, Chaimig undergoes a synesthetic pantheist experience: the old man and the environment breathe and feel jointly. Blind and ecstatic, Chaimig and the redeeming seascape are one within the frame of a sensory apprehension of Nature:

Aye, id’s a long time since a felt e sea on ma feet. Id wis good o ye til take me. They think cause a’m blin it means niything til me, boot id’s something, ken, chaist til feel e salt in e air, chaist til hear it. A spent a lot o time oot ere, wan way or anither. (p. 35)

37This experience turns into a metaphysic elevation and elation, a form of natural ecstasy, a journey beyond the limits of the human body and its dis/abilities. Through this harmonious synthesis, old Chaimig frees himself from age, handicap and other various ordeals.

38Despite – or thanks to – the dialectal wording / phrasing of the old man, (expressing himself in Doric to be in full harmony with his environment), poetry emerges from the expression of this transcendence, taking the form of hypotyposis and of an open form of ekphrasis.

V. Sonorous landscapes: music and language

39Through words, the landscape figures itself in the hearers’ minds and through their musical rhetoric, synesthesia can be fulfilled; verbalised on stage, the textual material/cloth makes the landscape sonorous and resonant. The music of lyrical ballads, of poems and songs, the music of other spheres – whether Celtic or not – transpierces the drama and oozes from its lines and didascalia.

40An element of prosopopeia, in Shimmer, the rain sings and gives its voice to PETAL – the female character whose name somehow vegetalises her – when she finds it impossible to express herself. Ekphrastic, the sound of the rain renders an invisible presence:

The rain, the light, breathing. Something/someone retreats (Shimmer, p. 17) There’s a short lull in the rain. Something/someone listens (Shimmer, p. 21) The rain continues. Something/someone retreats (Shimmer, p. 21)

41As W.J.T. Mitchell explains,

  • 35 W. J. T. Mitchell ‘Ekphrasis and the Other’ in Picture Theory (London: The University of Chicago Pr (...)

The narrowest meaning of the word ekphrasis as a poetic mode, “giving voice to a mute art object,” or offering “a rhetorical description of a work of art,” give way to a more general application that includes any “set description intended to bring person, place, picture, etc. before the mind’s eye.” Ekphrasis may be even further generalized, as it is by Murray Krieger, into a general “principal” exemplifying the aestheticizing of language in what he calls the “still moment”. For Krieger, the visual arts are a metaphor, not just for verbal representation of visual experience, but for the shaping of language into formal patterns that “still” the movement of linguistic temporality into a spatial, formal array. Not just vision, but stasis, shape, closure, and silent presence ( “still” in the other sense) are the aims of this more general form of ekphrasis.35

42Landscape is not only a view of scenery; it is also sounds and music; the sounds of birds and the sea, the sounds of streams and belling stags…

43Landscape is language and identity too. In Monolingualism of the Other OR The Prosthesis of Origin, Jacques Derrida considers monolingualism as one’s habitat. In the same way, polyglossy can also be said to be as well, and to symbolise the Scottish linguistic crucible and landscape. Everyday, cultivating languages are cultivated, as the various soils that helped mapping the Scottish nation are themselves. As Derrida wrote:

  • 36 Jacques Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other OR The Prosthesis of Origin, trans. by Patrick Mensah (...)

Picture this, imagine someone who would cultivate the French language.
What is called the French language.
Someone whom the French language would cultivate.
And who, as a French citizen, would be, moreover, a subject of French culture, as we say.
Now suppose, for example, that one day this subject of French culture were to tell you in good French:
“I only have one language; it is not mine.”
Or rather, and better still:
I am monolingual. My monolingualism dwells, and I call it my dwelling; it feels like one to me, and I remain in it and inhabit it. It inhabits me.36

44A bare stage, that is to say non-decor, can undergo any kind of metamorphosis through music and voice. Accents can define and colour any space into a landscape as this excerpt from Henry Adam’s ‘e Polish Quine shows:

Possible mise-en-scene as play begins with ANNA and her family pulling a handcart across Europe as Polish music plays. The music mutates to a traditional Scottish sound setting the scene for the voice of DAVID GORDON to enter in the darkness. He is describing a dream to his friend and comrade, TIM BALFOUR in the confines of his father’s farm in Kincardine. It has been a long time since they last laid eyes on each other, having grown up together, gone to university together, and fought together. Equals in every way, despite one being a son of the Bothy, and the other a son of the Manse.
DAVID: It wiz pissin doon, freezing cauld’, ‘e wind wiz bla’ing me a’wayes. A could see ‘e in ‘e hoose-licht – ‘iss tiny licht. A wiz fa’in in ‘e gutters. Ma faither wiz at ‘e fireside wi’a dram in his han, clackin wi’ Jock Duncan aboot ‘e plooin, foo he’d biyt him at ‘e shortboord in 1929. He wiz sayin – “Davie’s in Germany. Germany some pliyce”, an a’m scriymin “Noh faither, Czechoslovakia. Czechoslofuckinvakia!” He couldna hear me. A wiz lek a ghost hauntin ‘at hoose… or mibble a wiz lek Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”; seein ma visions o future an past… Dreams are funny.

TIM is about to say something but DAVID cuts him off with his hand. In the background we hear David’s sister KATE [Keet] sing a ballad redolent of the land.
DAVID. Listen.
They listen
DAVID joins in with the words, softly at first, but rising, with TIM also playing his part, with hamony or percussion. It ends in laughter, or self-consciousness or both. TIM has a hip flask, which they share.
TIM. Aye loon, lang time since I heard ye sing.

  • 37 Henry Adam, ‘e Polish Quine, version quoted with permission and by courtesy of the author (private (...)

DAVID. Lang time since a did. He indicates hip flask.
Lang time since a hed a dram in me.
Drinks.37

VI. A question of power

  • 38 Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 17.
  • 39 Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 163.
  • 40 Michel Foucault 1980, p. 77, in Edward Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 21; see also: <http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/para.1996.19.2.139?journalCode=para> [accessed 6 </http> (...)

45Dramatic and theatrical landscaping is no simple backdrop sketching, painting or depicting through semiotic and linguistic devices. It cannot be said to be mere aesthetised scenary. The stage and playtexts appropriate each locus and topos to particular ends beyond sheer contextualisation. Edward Soja recalls that ‘Foucault contrasts […] “real places” with the “fundamentally unreal spaces” of utopias, which present society in either a “perfected form” or else ‘turned upside down’38. Some literary and dramatic genres play with these oppositions with the same aim. Through similar tools, the fable for example satirises, criticises and denounces characters and communities. In the chapter entitled ‘Regions in Context: on Restructuring and the “Regional Question”’, Edward Soja also highlights differences but he deplores ‘geographically uneven development’ as ‘an illusive mirror of social action and the struggle of social classes’.39 Yet, as Michel Foucault put it, ‘to trace the forms of implantation, delimitation and demarcation of objects, the modes of tabulation, the organisation of domains meant the throwing into relief of processes – historical ones, needless to say – of power. The spatialising description of discursive realities gives on to the analysis of related effects of power.’40

  • 41 Michel Foucault, The Eye of Power, 1980, ed. Gordon, introduction to Jeremy Bentham, La Panoptique (...)

46Defining and landscaping territories, over and over again, have always been related to the quest and fight for power. As Foucault asserted, ‘A whole history remains to be written of spaces – which would at the same time be the history of powers (both of these terms in the plural) – from the great strategies of geopolitics to the little tactics of the habitat.’41 Such reflections and notions underlie Henry Adam’s Stand Up, Haggis – written in April 2013 and not published yet – in which the playwright revisits taletelling and historical narration. He ironically and metaphorically deprecates natural and social plundering, political choices, religious influence as well as self victimization in Scottish historical evolution:

  • 42 Henry Adam, Stand Up, Haggis; unpublished text, with permission, by courtesy of the author, April 2 (...)

From Caviar to cod roe to Farmfood’s fish sticks in less time than it takes a Gti to go from nought to sixty. The untold tragedy of one of Scotland’s
greatest clans.
We struggled on of course, staying close to the beaches, surviving on what we could pick there, cooking our moss and whelk chowder on the residue of washed up twigs and fishboxes, fighting the skorries for every bite.
There was plenty of land inland of course, beautiful land, arable and sheltering compared to where we were now, but it had all been bought up by a bunch of English sheep, and we watched with jealous eyes from the edge of the links these fat bloated woolly bastards arrogantly munching on the fine grass and succulent thistles that were ours by right of birth. That’s when the men with the Bibles came, preying on our despair, and we got on our knees and prayed on the beaches for God to send us Salvation, but God must have been out of salvation that week, because he ended up sending herring instead.
Herring! We raced into the sea with our nets of spun spiders silk – we had a lot of time on our hands remember? – and plucked those silver darlings, one by one, from the glittering surf.
We plucked them and plucked them and plucked them and plucked them, then we plucked them a little more, and a few more besides, till even the none too bright herring realised that this plucking wasn’t going to end any time soon and plucked off themselves probably to share an environment with some less greedy pluckers, who wouldn’t pluck a gift fish in the mouth.
Well the herring left us on the beach, same as the credit crunch did in 1815. It was our own fault really. We were greedy pluckers. 60 years of living on moss and whelks does that to a man. We distrusted tomorrow so we plucked for all we were worth today. It was a plucking orgy, and when it was over there was nothing left to do but put our clothes on and go home. Only we had no clothes. And the sheep were still living in our home, smug bastards, eating our Heather, although Heather wasn’t complaining. Slag.42

  • 43 <http://www.scottishhistory.com/articles/highlands/clearances/clearance_page1.html> [accessed 6 March 2015].
  • 44 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3qbFcLYZc>, [accessed 6 March 2015].

47With his biting tongue and his unflinching and sharp style, Henry Adam points at the land enclosures and clearances, the folk evictions, privatisation of land along with the dismantling of clans, the introduction of the Cheviot sheep and the correlated movement of people towards the coast. Tale-teller, he sums up a difficult period of Scottish History in a paradoxically sardonic and yet affectionate way.43 He shows how determinism preached by Presbyterian missionaries increased the Scottish Highlanders’ sense of guilt and how they killed the goose that lays the golden eggs through the intensive development of the herring industry, prosperous but depending on natural fuel. The herring, the sheep and the stag are symbols embedded in the text and scenery but they also respectively recall Lent, the English and the Scots’ antagonism. Through them, Henry Adam also pays tribute to John McGrath and his The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil.44

  • 45 ‘Crann Tara; Preserving the Culture, History, Heritage and Future of Scotland’, <http://www.cranntara.org.uk/clear.htm> [accessed 6 March </http>

48Strikingly, in the Scottish minds, escaping cannot be for good and for ever. Returning to the Mother land is always envisaged as shown by the prediction of the clearances that was allegedly made in the thirteenth century by The Seer Thomas of Erceldoune (Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas) who reportedly prophesied about the Highlands: ‘The teeth of the sheep shall lay the plough up on the shelf’. Once the metonymic tool allowing the tilling and cultivation of the earth discarded and forgotten, the soil is supposed to go back to some infertile and natural state, ideal for the grazing sheep. But how could this predicted defeat be accepted by the proud Scots? To counter what could have been understood as the announced end of the Scottish mastery of land, about 350 years later, Coinneach Odhar, the Brahan Seer, supposedly expanded on Thomas’s vision: ‘The day will come when the Big Sheep will put the plough up in the rafters... the Big Sheep will overrun the country till they meet the Northern Sea... (and) in the end, old men shall return from new lands.’45 Following this ideological line (with a more triumphant prospect of course), the contemporary drama and theatre of the Highlands and Islands currently stage the return to the ancestors’ land as a form of escape to authenticity, true values, for the heroes to finally rest in peace. Though highly self-centered, it definitely manages to expose and express universal issues by reflecting and refracting myriads of utopias and heterotopias like the mirror Michel Foucault described in his ‘Des Espaces Autres’.

Notes

1 Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies. The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London, Verso, 1989), p. 79.

2 Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster, Renascence Editions, An Online Repository of Works Printed in English Between the Years 1477 and 1799, livre II, ‘imitatio’, <http://pages.uoregon.edu/rbear/ascham2.htm>, [accessed 6 March 2015].

3 Joshua Reynolds, Sir, Discourses on Art, ed. by Robert R. Wark (London: Yales University Press, 1975), Discourse XIII, p. 235-36, l. 216-26.

4 < http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/file/2694394>, p. 5, [accessed 6 March 2015].

5 http://www.snh.gov.uk/about-scotlands-nature/scotlandslandscapes/landscapes-varieties/[accessed 6 March 2015].

6 ibid and <http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/looking-after-landscapes/lca/> [accessed 6 March 2015].

7 <http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/livinglandscapes/soils/soillandscapes.asp> [accessed 6 March 2015].

8 ‘The soil landscapes of Scotland’, <http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/livinglandscapes/soils/soillandscapes.asp> [accessed 6 March 2015].

9 Michel Foucault, ‘Des Espaces Autres’, March 1967. Translated by Jay Miskowiec, Michel Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’, Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité, October 1984; < web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf>, p. 6, [accessed 6 March 2015].

10 Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’, <http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/-janzb/courses/hum3930b/foucault1.htm> [accessed 6 March 2015].

11 Simon Shepherd and Mick Wallis, Drama/Theatre/Performance (2006; London: Routledge, 2008), p. 24.

12 <http://www.pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com/pitlochry-festival-theatre/gallery-and-shop/gallery-and-shop.html> [accessed 6 March 2015]

13 Sir Philip Sidney, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, The Renascence Editions, An Online Repository of Works Printed in English Between the Years 1477 and 1799, <http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/%7Erbear/arcadia1.html > [accessed 6 March 2015].

14 Guercino (Giovan Francesco Barbieri), Et in Arcadia Ego (c. 1618), Galleria Nazionle d’Arte Antico, <http://galleriabarberini.beniculturali.it/index.php?it/110/guercino-et-in-arcadiaego> [accessed 6 March 2015]. Nicolas Poussin, Les Bergers d’Arcadie dit aussi Et in Arcadia Ego, Musée du Louvre, Paris, <http://cartelfr.louvre.fr/cartelfr/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idnotice=2143&CSS=1> [accessed 6 March 2015].

15 Gérard Genette, Palimpsestes (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1982), p. 12.

16 David Harrower, Dark Earth (London: Faber and Faber, 2003).

17 David Greig, Outlying Islands (London: faber and faber, 2002), p. 18.

18 See the photograph by Euan Myles on the front cover of Henry Adam, Among Unbroken Hearts (London: Nick Hern Book, 2001).

19 Henry Adam, Among Unbroken Hearts (London: Nick Hern Book, 2001), p. 28.

20 Zinnie Harris, Further than the Furthest Thing (London: Faber and Faber, 2000).

21 Rev. Dennis Wilkinson, ‘The Rain on Tristan da Cunha’ in Zinnie Harris, Further than the Furthest Thing (London: Faber & Faber, 2000).

22 ‘This Lonely Rock’ in Zinnie Harris, Further than the Furthest Thing.

23 ‘The wet world drips / and drips and drips […] Christ for Tristan weeps: / See how the wet world drips/ and drips and drips’, The Rain on Tristan da Cunha’ in Zinnie Harris, Further than the Furthest Thing.

24 Linda McLean, Shimmer (London: Nick Hearn Books, 2004) p. 5

25 Uvedale Price, Essays on the Picturesque, <https://archive.org/details/essays onpictures01priciala> [accessed 6 March 2015]. The author defines both concepts and insists on the differences that can be noted between them. Their links with the notion of Beauty is also studied in Walter John Hipple, Jr, ‘The Beautiful, The Sublime, & The Picturesque’ in Eighteenth Century British Aesthetic Theory (Carbondale: The Southern Illinois University Press, 1957). <http://archive.org/stream/beautifulthesubl013216mbp/beautifulthesubl013216mbp_djvu.txt> [accessed 6 March 2015]

26 ‘The Sublime impresses the mind at once with one great idea; it is a single blow’: Joshua Reynolds, Sir, Discourses on Art, ed. by Robert R. Wark (London: Yales University Press, 1975), ‘Discourse IV’, p. 65, l. 279-80.

27 Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771; Oxford: O.U.P., 1984), p. 236.

28 Linda McLean, Shimmer (London: Nick Hern Books, 2004).

29 David Greig, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (London: Faber & Faber, 2011).

30 <web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf>, Architecture / Mouvement / Continuité, October 1984; Michel Foucault, ‘Des Espaces Autres’, March 1967, Translated by Jay Miskowiec, [accessed 6 March 2015].

31 <http://www.artsinmotion.co.uk/Images/an%20clo%20mor/gallery/>, [accessed 6 March 2015].

32 Antoinette Galbraith and Ray Cox, ‘Drama by design’ in Scotland on Sunday, August 25th 2013, p. 14-15 (Inside pages, ‘Gardens’).

33 Ian Findlay McLeod, Homers (London: Nick Hern Books, 2002).

34 Henry Adam, Among Unbroken Hearts (London: Nick Hern Books, 2011).

35 W. J. T. Mitchell ‘Ekphrasis and the Other’ in Picture Theory (London: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), p. 153.

36 Jacques Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other OR The Prosthesis of Origin, trans. by Patrick Mensah (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 1.

37 Henry Adam, ‘e Polish Quine, version quoted with permission and by courtesy of the author (private correspondence).

38 Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 17.

39 Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 163.

40 Michel Foucault 1980, p. 77, in Edward Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 21; see also: <http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/para.1996.19.2.139?journalCode=para> [accessed 6 March 2015]

41 Michel Foucault, The Eye of Power, 1980, ed. Gordon, introduction to Jeremy Bentham, La Panoptique (1977), p. 149, in Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 21.

42 Henry Adam, Stand Up, Haggis; unpublished text, with permission, by courtesy of the author, April 2013 (private correspondence).

43 <http://www.scottishhistory.com/articles/highlands/clearances/clearance_page1.html> [accessed 6 March 2015].

44 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3qbFcLYZc>, [accessed 6 March 2015].

45 ‘Crann Tara; Preserving the Culture, History, Heritage and Future of Scotland’, <http://www.cranntara.org.uk/clear.htm> [accessed 6 March 2015].

Auteur

Is a Professor Emerita in Clermont Ferrand’s Blaise Pascal University. Her research and numerous publications deal with Elizabethan, Jacobean and contemporary drama and theatre, intersemioticity, authorship, stylometry and stylostatistics, related to works written between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. So far, she has translated Cyril Tourneur’s The Atheist’s Tragedy and, on commission, the translations of two of Irish Enda Walsh’s plays, as well as The Tailor of Inverness by Scottish Matthew Zajac and The people next Door by Scottish Henry Adam (the four of them written between 1997 et 2008).

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