dumfriesshire's african explorer

 

To bring Joseph Thomson, African Explorer back to Penpont, the village of his birth, and in a very animated way almost 160 years later, was a considerable creative feat.  But this is what Dave Dewar`s Cultural Connections achieved on the evening of 1st June, in the first public showing of Dumfriesshire`s African Explorer.  With William Williamson, a direct descendant of Joseph Thomson playing the part of the man himself, the whole production carried a fine thread of the family link throughout.   The show was part of 2017 Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.

 

With the story of Joseph`s life told through a rich mix of music, song, dialogue, and even a wee dance, the audience of well over a hundred were captivated by how he progressed from his humble origins to become a national hero.  We were invited to share in the journey of his exploits of a boy with an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, to a youth who became increasingly investigative in all things natural, literary, and philosophical, and on to a man who found he had a profound desire to explore in Africa.  Through this fine mix of music and drama, we were deftly drawn-in to the fine character and motivation of the man, and discovered for ourselves, the admirable human qualities that he demonstrated throughout a life that was all too short.

 

The commentary by Agnes, Joseph`s mother played by Wendy Weatherby also on cello, and Willie his father, played by Ian Walker – Musical Director and multi-instrumentalist, enlivened the Joseph story, as seen by his family.

 

Dumfriesshire`s African Explorer was played to a full house in the Ewart Library, Dumfries the following evening, and has done much to bring the fascinating story of this great man to a wider contemporary audience.  It was written, directed, and produced to a very high standard, and the players worked so well together to bring the rich legacy of Joseph Thomson alive in a way that resonates well for today.  Shining through all of this was his great-quality as a peacemaker, and lifelong conviction of the wisdom in this approach.

 

The players did Joseph Thomson proud, and it is to be hoped that the way can now be found to bring the show to audiences elsewhere in Scotland.

 

Peter Wright
Secretary of the Joseph Thomson Maasai Trust
2nd June 2017

 

the banker who cared

 

This wonderful play had everything; Scottish history, humour, characterisation and drama at its best!  The vivid play delivered by an enthusiastic band of actors revealed the fascinating life story of the famous Dumfriesshire minister and social reformer, Reverend Henry Duncan of Ruthwell.  How apt and atmospheric the setting for this play was Ruthwell Church itself as Duncan was responsible for the restoration of the famous Ruthwell Cross which lies within.

 

Rosemary MacIntyre
Lockerbie
June 2016

 

 

That was marvellous.  I found the play really moving and hugely enjoyable.

 

Professor Charles Munn
Author of 'The Minister for Money', an unpublished biography of Henry Duncan
June 2016

 

 

An Audience with Mr and Mrs Carnegie

 

On Wednesday night, the 25 November, playwright Dave Dewar from Kilmun and his theatre group, Cultural Connections had the première of their latest play 'An audience with Mr and Mrs Carnegie' at Dunoon library .

 

The evening began with music from the award winning young piper, Jamie Campbell from Strachur played to a full house and the audience waited with anticipation for the play to begin.  Alan Reid played Andrew Carnegie and also arranged all the music and Louise, Carnegie's wife was played by Elaine Graham from Kirn who maintained a perfect American accent throughout the play.  Elaine has also appeared in many stage musicals and both actors gave a very professional performance.  Dave Dewar wrote and directed the play and played the part of the interviewer revealing fascinating aspects of their lives.

 

Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835 in Dunfermline to a very humble background and emigrated at age twelve with his family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in search of a better life.  He became a millionaire by age thirty five and the richest man in the world by age sixty five.  He gave most of his wealth away to worthy causes including creating over two thousand five hundred libraries.  He never forgot his Scottish roots and purchased 'Skibo Castle' where he returned to, often, with his wife.  The strong bond between husband and wife was well portrayed with great humour and the dominance of Carnegie's mother throughout his life.

 

Dave Dewar, as the  interviewer engaged with the audience and was not afraid to ask Carnegie sensitive questions such as why he campaigned for world peace yet still supplied steel and weapons for the US and Russian Navy to which Carnegie feigned memory loss and blamed others to evade the situation.  His wife, Louise, jumped to his defence each time asking for no more questions to be asked and to leave the poor man alone.

 

There were many musical interludes where Alan Reid showed his great talent.  The acting was superb and very professional.  A most memorable night and in my own opinion the best play that Dave has produced yet.

 

Jacqueline Couch

 

Dunoon Observer & Argyllshire Standard
Nov. 2015

 

An Audience with Patrick Miller and Robert Burns

   The drawing room at Dalswinton House on Sunday 18th May was filled to capacity by an audience eager to witness a new play, which had drawn my attention because, although Patrick Miller is not as well known as Robert Burns nowadays, he has been a hero of mine, partly because of steamboat fame, since schooldays.

   Fittingly, the play was being staged in the very mansion house, built by Miller, the banker turned laird, and completed in 1795, ten years after he bought the estate unseen. Miller’s speculative nature was amusingly linked to recent developments on the banking scene.

   The interplay between the older, slightly bombastic patron, Miller, and Burns, the young and handsome ‘womaniser’, was neatly managed by David Dewar in person, as the narrator, to reveal facts about their lives.  Allusions to Burns’ poem, ‘The Whistle’ about a drinking competition that took place at Friars’ Carse when the poet was farming the inhospitable land at Ellisland, provided Dewar with an opportunity to state, from his interpretation of the poem, that Burns was present.

   An added highlight was the interspersing of the performance with beautiful renderings of Burns’ songs at timely intervals by a small group from Kirkcaldy. Another amusing touch was provided by “Such a parcel of rogues in a nation”, linked cleverly and inoffensively to current political machinations.  A 200-year-old story brought right up to date!

   Warm and genuine applause followed the end of the performance.  Interestingly, Peter and Sara Landale, our hosts, had placed Miller’s portrait on an easel in the entrance hall.  The actual whistle, which came over with Anne of Denmark, wife of James VI of Scotland, was won by Ferguson of Craigdarroch at Friars’ Carse in 1789, the last occasion when the competition took place.  It had been brought by its current owner and was also on display there.  A splendid afternoon tea, which allowed opportunities for all-round praise and discussion, rounded off a very special afternoon.

Morag Williams

retired archivist for NHS Dumfries and Galloway
May 2014

 

The True Story of Doctor David and Mary Livingston.

Doctor Livingstone, I presumed, was a respected Scottish medical missionary of the mid-nineteenth century .  The character brought to life recently in Innellan Village Hall was much more complex and controversial.

The extensive research behind the piece had been done by Kilmun resident Dave Dewar of Cultural Connections.  Using his familiar formula, he incisively interviewed Dr and Mrs Livingstone who were brought to life by freelance actors James Keenan and Karen Bartke.  Musical interludes and illustrations, performed by celebrated folk musician and singer Alan Reid, punctuated and coloured the interviews with songs about Livingstone and his wife and well-researched African-style music.

James Keenan’s strong portrayal of Livingstone brought out an explorer, single-mindedly dedicated to his African journey – his achievements going some way to expose and challenge the slave trade but also to deprive his wife and family of a settled, comfortable home-life together.  James brought to us a man proud of and confident about his achievements but ill at ease about some of his personal commitments to his African converts and uncomfortable about how his way of life had affected his wife’s.  There was a very poignant moment when Livingstone’s daughter Agnes, played by eight year old Erin Walkingshaw from Innellan, asked her father when he was coming home.

As Mrs. Livingstone, Karen Bartke presented a tense, tragic, yet devoted wife and mother, at one point beautifully singing a moving song that was written by her character for her husband.

This was an entertainment skilfully performed and full of interest for a well-packed village hall.

Jenny Marshall
Dunoon Observer & Argyllshire Standard
10 October, 2013

 

Henry Bell

Dave Dewar's play about the visionary Henry Bell and his legacy to world sea transport has to be the best 'live history lesson' I've ever seen.  A solid story line, great music and intuitive actors all contributed to this successful play, but I have to say that the opening night of August 22nd was made very special by the Dunoon Library's efforts in setting the stage perfectly to showcase the play and to celebrate the Comet Bicentenary - ship model displays, books, a slide show, photographs and printed articles all thoughtfully arranged to give us an intimate look back through time.  I can't think of a more perfect setting for a play about the man who did so much to bring steam navigation to our area and to the world. Hats off  to Pamela Horton, Library Supervisor and Eleanor McKay, Information and Local Studies Librarian.

Actors Paul Kozinski (Henry Bell) and Janis M. Reilly (Mrs. Margaret Bell) gave us an outstanding performance, as did Alan Reid who not only composed and performed all the fine music for the play but acted as well, performing five small narrative parts himself. Many thanks to the players, and thanks most of all for a great evening of information and entertainment to Dave Dewar for all his work in writing and producing this unique and enjoyable show.  I understand that the show has also been performed for several local area schools.

In summary, I feel lucky to have had a glimpse of Henry Bell as a human being instead of only getting to see him on a page in a history book. So, keep up the good work Dave, and bring your shows to as many adults and school children as possible!

Rima Deford
Dunoon Observer & Argyllshire Standard
7 September 2012

 

Para Handy and the Vital Spark

The Innellan village hall was absolutely packed on Thursday night the 4th October in anticipation of Para Handy and the Vital Spark and the audience were not to be disappointed!

The first part began with a short comedy sketch by Unforeseen Productions entitled 'The Interview.' This featured Paul Kozinski and Janis Marshall Reilly. Music by Alan Reid . This was very cleverly performed. There was much light hearted banter and even some juggling!

After a short interlude the main play began. The Vital Spark takes on its first female crew member played by Janis Marshall Reilly as Charlie McKenzie, with hilarious consequences, as she attempts to feminise the famous puffer. Dave Dewar played the cantankerous Dan McPhail as the engineer who is very set in his ways and definitely does not want a female on board! The skipper, Para Handy was played by Paul Kozinski who is a bit more lenient than Dan but still unsure whether to employ a female but she gets the better of them both! She is far more educated and shrewd than the two men and uses her female wiles to get her own way! But when she wants to place air fresheners in the engine room this is too much for McPhail! Alan Reid apart from playing some great music gave a wonderful definition of a 'Quiche Lorraine'.

The acting was superb even down to the 'Postie' who came to deliver a parcel for Charlie thinking she was a man. Once again Dave Dewar has shown that he is a very accomplished playwright and actor.

Jacqueline Couch
Dunoon Observer & Argyllshire Standard
12 Oct. 2012

 

FAWLTLESS!

The laughter must have been heard from Dunoon to Ardentinny when a ‘Fawlty Towers’ evening was held recently at the Pier Hotel, Kilmun.  The event was an absolute winner, playing to a packed dining room. 

Richard Gray, a professional actor from Glasgow, carried off a magnificently manic Basil and is to be congratulated on sustaining the role of the mad hotelier so successfully.

Sybil, his mincing whinging wife, was admirably played by Janis Marshall, also a professional actor from Glasgow (but brought up in Innellan).  Her throw-away one-liners at the expense of a local GP and the new parish minister were deliciously and witheringly disrespectful.

More than a match for Basil and Sybil was José (Manuel’s ‘cousin’), played to utter perfection by professional actor/musician Alan Reid, who was simply the mirror image in both accent and mentality of the original Manuel – brilliantly executed.

Our own David Dewar from Kilmun arrived unannounced as the ‘Argile and Boot’ Environmental Health inspector – and what hilarity ensued!  He maintained his quintessential dead-pan expression despite discovering a decomposing magpie in the sun-lounge awning, a giant cockroach in a diner’s salad, and a large sample of dog ‘poo’ in the kitchen!  However, the day was saved by the ever-resourceful José who dropped a ‘happy pill’ in the inspector’s glass of water – resulting in the Council official’s side-splittingly funny one-man conga round the outside of the hotel and down the main street of Kilmun.

Somehow amidst the mayhem, the ever-unflappable Ian and Estralita Murray and their staff managed as always to serve guests with a superb culinary feast. 

Evlyn Mill
Dunoon Observer & Argyllshire Standard
22 May, 2010