Anything you can Tattoo, we can Tattoo better: The Australian replica of the Edinburgh show

AT first sight, it appears to be a photograph of the most famous landmark in Scotland, captured at a moment of full pageantry.

• The astonishing replica of Edinburgh Castle, painstakingly recreated after a fire, for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo being held in Sydney next month. Pictures: Getty Images

Yet look closer, and what seems to be volcanic rock and stone is in fact a marvel of set design, forged out of plywood, plaster and enough paint to give the entire Old Town the once over.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This remarkable replica of Edinburgh Castle will take pride of place today in Australia as part of celebrations taking the famed Edinburgh Military Tattoo to the other side of the world.

Less than a year after a previous faade of the castle was destroyed by fire, work on a new backdrop is complete, and the resulting feat will form the centre stage for the tattoo at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Measuring 20 metres high by 26.5 metres wide, it cost organisers more than 550,000 to raise the replica from the ashes, with efforts to painstakingly recreate the detail of the original akin to "police" work.

It is created from a scaffold shell construction with cladding surfaces.

The amount of materials involved in building the replica is mind-boggling; it includes more than 11,000 square metres of ply, two kilometres of shock cord, 2,000 square metres of cloth and 12,000 litres of paint and plaster.

While the people involved thought the fire initially heralded disaster for the show, they expressed pride in completing the replacement.

Vivian Wilson, the art director for the Edinburgh Tattoo in Australia, who designed the first castle for the visit of the tattoo to Sydney in 2005, recalled how the fire gave him and his team the opportunity to tweak their initial designs.

"When the news came through that the original castle had gone up in smoke, it seemed like a tragedy," he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"This has, however, turned into a challenge and a blessing of sorts. It's not often one can revisit a project of this stature and have another crack at it."

Work began on the castle faade – complete with moat, gatehouse, royal apartments and half-moon battery – last August.

Such is the forensic attention to detail, each brick in the replica was hand-painted with up to five different colours for maximum authenticity.

Improvements on the old model include polystyrene sculptures of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

"As we rely on photographic evidence for the recreation of the castle, there is a lot of 'forensic' inspection and dozens of pictures printed as reference for not only the painters but also the carpenters," said Mr Wilson.

"It sounds a bit like police work and it is in a way. Our construction manager, Shaun Heath, was lucky enough to be in Edinburgh in July and the photos he took were invaluable."

Having completed rehearsals, Major General Euan Loudon, the tattoo's producer, said the resemblance between the castle and the replica was uncanny.

"I felt like I had been beamed back to the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, it was so realistic," he said.

"Australia has always been good to the Tattoo.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I can think of no better way of kicking off our diamond jubilee year in 2010 than by returning to the city and country which opened their hearts to us so warmly when we visited last time round."

Mr Wilson added: " It is most rewarding when we have a visit by the folks from Scotland and they are so complimentary.

"It reinforces the fact that we all feel privileged to have the opportunity to reproduce such and icon. The entire team says it's one of the best jobs they have been lucky enough to be involved with."

More than 1,500 performers from around the world are due to take part over the four-day run at the stadium, normally home to the Sydney FC football team.

It is only the third time in the Tattoo's history that it has been performed outside of Edinburgh.