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Assipattle  - "A Triumph"  25 September 03
A review by Drew Macleod

Thousands of people packed the streets of Wick last Friday to see “Assipattle”, the first show to be presented under the auspices of Caithness Community Projects. Along with almost everyone I spoke to I have no hesitation in declaring the show an absolute triumph. There were a few logistical and technical problems along the way but given the scale of the production this was neither surprising or too distracting.

“Assipattle” of the title is a local boy who bravely steps forward and declares he will slay the terrible dragon that has arrived to terrorise the Kingdom. The earlier arrival of an evil Sorcerer has already precipitated the sacrifice of seven fair maidens in an attempt to appease the beast. The sorcerer however is now demanding a further sacrifice, the Kings daughter, the Princess Gemdelovely and this is when Assipattle steps in. Needless to say all ends happily, Assipattle kills the dragon with a magic sword and is given the Princess’ hand in marriage.

The story was played out over two hours at seven extremely well chosen locations. At only two, the Market Square and the Harbour was our view of the action obscured but since this was due to the sheer size of the crowd I don’t think we should complain.

The three large puppets, the King, the Queen and the Sorcerer were particularly impressive. They became the focal point of almost every scene and were especially effective standing on the hill in front of the heraldic flags overlooking the river for the sacrifice of the seven maidens. The scene was quite spectacular in itself. The river lit by torches and flamethrowers and the appearance of the dragon in the water.

While the costumes, puppets and pyrotechnics were wonderful and lovely to look at, hearing the dialogue was a bit more problematic. This was especially a problem at the Market Square and Union Street locations. Having said that however, by the nature of the event I don’t think anyone saw or heard everything. It certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the sheer spectacle of the piece.

The weather also played its part to perfection. The show began in the gathering darkness of a still evening and ended at the harbour with a breathtaking firework display lighting up a coal black sky.

Finally, two highlights that really made the evening for me. The sheer exuberance of the young cast was a joy to behold. They all worked tremendously hard and never flagged or lost concentration once as far as I could see. The stilt walkers in particular earned my undying admiration.

From a personal point of view I loved being part of a fluid constantly moving audience. Indeed we felt more like onlookers than an audience, finding shortcuts to each location to get there early for a better view, sharing stories with the different people we met at each location.

I do hope this does become an annual event and Martin Danziger and his team go from strength to strength.