Fringe show will tell story of last Inverness public hanging

Inverness Castle
Inverness Castle
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The last man to be publicly hanged in Inverness is to be the subject of a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Drama student Kym Hunt will be performing two shows at the Fringe, with one - Wandering Bones - telling the factual tale of John Adams.

: Petra Stolfa, Katie Watson and Amy McEwan in rehearsals for One Man's Junk. Picture: Supplied

: Petra Stolfa, Katie Watson and Amy McEwan in rehearsals for One Man's Junk. Picture: Supplied

The idea for ‘Wandering Bones’ came from work Kym undertook as part of her coursework at Inverness College UHI, where she will be starting her third year in September.

Having already come up with the concept, Kym, from Beauly, decided to try and develop it as a play, despite having never written one before or publicly showcasing her work.

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She said: “I was really interested in the story, which is fascinating. I also love the fact that very few people in Inverness know anything about John Adams.”

According to reports, John Adams moved to Inverness with his girlfriend Dorothy but lost his job.

With no money to live, John moved back to Montrose where he married a rich woman called Jane.

He brought her back to Inverness and killed her, thinking he would get away with it because nobody knew her.

He was caught and hanged in 1835 at what is now the city’s Harbour Road roundabout.

But his tale doesn’t stop there. When he died he became the ward of the police as he couldn’t be buried in consecrated ground.

At that time, the police station was in Church Street and he was buried under the cells.

Later, the police moved to Castle Wynd, and John’s body moved too. He’s now thought to be somewhere under the Police Scotland car park in the city’s Old Perth Road.

Kym’s play was accepted by the Fringe but unfortunately her lead actor dropped out. Unable to find a replacement, she decided to write ‘One’s Man Junk’ as a back-up.

It tells the story of two sisters who find hidden secrets in the attic after losing their grandmother to dementia.

It stars Inverness College UHI students Petra Stolfa and Katie Watson, who will graduate from the BA course in September, and Amy McEwan, who is about to go into the Honours year of the degree programme.

Kym, 28, said: “While we were trying to work out what we were going to do, I had this idea going round my head for a play set in an attic.

“I thought I needed to come up with a Plan B in case ‘Wandering Bones’ didn’t get off the ground.

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“I wrote ‘One Man’s Junk in about a month and it was accepted. It was at that point, I decided I would perform ‘Wandering Bones’ myself, as a one-woman show, so now I’ve got two plays going to the Fringe.”

Kym will start the third year of the BA Drama and Performance degree in September.

She successfully applied to the Fringe after being encouraged by her college lecturers and script-writer friend Phil Baarda, who runs the Inverness Playwrights group at Eden Court Theatre.

Rehearsals are now underway ahead of the gruelling schedule, which will see both plays performed almost every day for three weeks.

She added: “I’m really excited,” continued Kym, who studied the HNC in Acting and Performance before progressing to the BA in Drama and Performance. “It’s an incredible achievement, which hasn’t really sunk in yet. Two years ago I went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time as an audience member. I loved it so much and I remember thinking, one day I am going to perform here. I just didn’t realise I’d be doing it in two years!! I can remember when Phil first read my script and said I should take it to the Fringe, I couldn’t believe it. I was gobsmacked.”

Phil Baarda, who runs Inverness Playwrights, said: “I got struck by Kym’s idea for ‘Wandering Bones’. It’s a gift for a playwright – where there’s a deluded and inadequate man who can’t control his situation, and is bound by the circumstances and strong women in his life.  There’s the universal themes within the play, and – as it’s also a dramatized account of a real person within a historical situation – it makes the play greatly centred on place and its time, which resonates with local Highland audiences too.

“Kym’s pretty dynamic!  She’s full of energy and ideas, and I really admire that she is not only undertaking a full run at this year’s Fringe herself, but also is doing a second play there too.  That’s borderline madness!”

And it doesn’t end there. As well as juggling two Fringe shows, Kym is also working with fellow BA Drama and Performance students Iona Milne, Amy Boyle and Laura Walker to set up children’s theatre company, PurpleBs Theatre, which hopes to run a series of shows at Inverness Library this year.

The students have set up the theatre company to make drama and performance more accessible and affordable to families.

“We wanted to create theatre for children that actively engages them from when they are babies, right through to adulthood,” Kym explained. “We will be taking a more traditional approach to theatre with proper story-telling and audience participation.”

Kym, a former Charleston Academy pupil, credits her course for giving her the confidence to do what she wants.

“I love what I do, going to Inverness College UHI and acting, performing and writing,” she said. “It has always been who I am, and something I have always wanted to do but felt I couldn’t for a long time. I always had it drilled in to me that I needed to find a strong job, that acting and performing was too whimsical. I used to work in a call centre and I was made redundant in 2014. It was the best thing that ever happened to me because all of a sudden I could do what I wanted to. The second I got onto the HNC it was like a lightbulb was switched on in my head. It has absolutely given me the confidence and drive to pursue my dreams.”

Roddy Henry, acting principal of Inverness College UHI, said: “Our courses respond to the demands of industry and support students by preparing them for the world of work. It’s absolutely wonderful to see our students putting themselves out there and making a name for themselves on an international stage. Everyone at Inverness College UHI wishes them the very best of luck for their forthcoming performances – we can’t wait to hear all about it.”

• Wandering Bones is on at Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18) from 3rd to 27th August.

• One Man’s Junk is on at the Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It will run from 5th to 26th August at Silk Nightclub, King’s Stables Road.