GHOSTS and old country houses are the stuff of many a spooking on the Fringe. Last weekend, however, Dudendance Theatre spirted audiences away to an 18th century manor house with, it’s said, a veritable apparation. Haining House, by Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, is set within wooded enclaves that spill down to the edge of a picturesque lake. Centuries of local and family history have played out at Haining, and as we looked out across the lake at twilight, a lone figure in flowing white was like a lure to eerie imaginings – which is, of course, the effect that Dudendance’s spectral pageant is meant to trigger.
If an earlier work, Borderlands (at Dryburgh Abbey), benefitted from the reminders of mortality in both graveyard and ruins, at Haining it was the sight, sound and smell of drenched nature that created a context of change and decay for the white-clad forms that silently melted in and out of the trees or drifted from the shadows around buildings. And though Dudendance had devised a soundscape for when we reached the house, the sense of unease and melancholy stirred up by the solitary wanderers was heightened by crescendos of birds cawing. Shakespeare's “Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood” suddenly became an intense reality. No sign of Macbeth inside the house, but wraith-like beings – paused, as if they’d morphed out of the plaster – and a sepia film filled a wall with the lost and drowning youth of yesterday, while singer Fiona Soe Paing gave voice to haunted lament.
Whatever secret sorrows linger still at Haining, Dudendance’s exquisite interventions seem to reach below the surface of the modern world, reminding us the past is ever with us even if we can’t always see it.

By Jen Bolsover **** Four Stars

Taking place in the stunning, tranquil surroundings of Haining House down in Selkirk, The Lady Vanishes is a melancholy and meditative piece. Eschewing traditional dance forms in favour of slow, stretched movements, it draws on Victorian spirit photography and a number of horror tropes to create a show that would be soothing if it weren’t so uncanny.
The audience is led through the grounds of the dilapidated house, catching glimpses of women in flowing white dresses. Their faces are never seen, and even though they are sometimes sighted together there’s a sense that these may all be one woman, multiple manifestations of the same trapped soul. Clever use is made of the woods and the still, reflective lake to make the audience question what they see. It’s never terrifying, but constantly mildly unsettling.
The show loses focus somewhat towards the end. It feels like it reaches a climax and natural end in a mesmerising sequence just outside the house, but after that it continues as the audience is led indoors to see a projected video accompanied by a live singer. The music is very beautiful, but the shift from the outdoor setting and sounds of nocturnal wildlife waking up to welcome the night, to an indoor space with projectors and microphones, is a bit jarring. The video also seems to invoke the folk tale of the Cruel Sister, heavily suggesting a narrative after previously leaving the audience to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations. It really isn’t necessary. The piece would feel complete with nothing more than the dancers and the audience and whatever story they create between them.
The Lady Vanishes ran at Summerhall at 19.00 until 15 August. Running time 3 hours 30 minutes (including bus journeys).