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Former theatre director Jon Palmer turned to local history for the subject of his play The Riot Of Resolis which will be shown twice at Friday's first day of the Cromarty Crime & Thrillers Weekend


By Margaret Chrystall

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For this year’s Cromarty Crime & Thrillers Weekend there’s a dramatic twist – life-size puppets will play out the story of a real-life local ‘crime’ rather than a fictional murder mystery.

With the puppets, Jon Palmer, is behind Riot In Resolis which will be seen on Friday (May 6) in Cromarty. Picture: Callum Mackay
With the puppets, Jon Palmer, is behind Riot In Resolis which will be seen on Friday (May 6) in Cromarty. Picture: Callum Mackay

Jon Palmer, who runs The Cheese Shop in the town’s Old Police Station with his wife Emmy, explained the idea behind The Riot of Resolis – which has two performances next Friday, May 6.

Jon was a theatre director in Yorkshire working in community-orientated, professional companies doing work in schools and village halls.

“When we relocated to Cromarty in 2012, I made contact with Cromarty Arts Trust,” he said.

The trust, planning its first Cromarty Crime & Thrillers Weekend, asked Jon if he would create a murder mystery.

“That first one was in 2013 and we carried on doing them for the next six years. They were fun, but I was keen to do something much more serious and hit upon the Resolis Riot as being a true crime from the area.

“But to tell the story if you are going to put on something just once or twice, it is a big ask to get people to learn all the lines and do hours of rehearsal.”

A friend of Jon’s suggested using puppets and recording the lines beforehand, so you would only need people to act as puppeteers.

“In total we have six puppeteers and a performer who plays the journalist character who is the kind of narrator creating a thread running through the story,” said Jon.

Riot In Resolis, part of the Crime Weekend in Cromarty with the puppeteers – Corrie Jeffrey, Carsten Flieger, Nicki Slater, Nige Shapcott, Vicki Nevin and Ben Flieger. Picture: Callum Mackay
Riot In Resolis, part of the Crime Weekend in Cromarty with the puppeteers – Corrie Jeffrey, Carsten Flieger, Nicki Slater, Nige Shapcott, Vicki Nevin and Ben Flieger. Picture: Callum Mackay

There will also be live music from composer Marjorie Patterson and two other musicians.

Jon outlined the history he has turned into his play.

“In 1843 it was the time of the Disruption when the Free Church was breaking away from the Church of Scotland. People objected to having ministers imposed upon them by the landed gentry and the riot happened as people tried to prevent a minister being inducted at Resolis Church. A woman was arrested as a scapegoat and taken to Cromarty Courthouse. But the following day locals broke down the door and got her out. The Irish Fusiliers were called in to round up the perpetrators.

Puppet Espat, among the cast for Riot In Resolis, part of the Crime Weekend in Cromarty. Pictures: Callum Mackay
Puppet Espat, among the cast for Riot In Resolis, part of the Crime Weekend in Cromarty. Pictures: Callum Mackay

“At the end of the play, the puppeteers become themselves and read out incidents since then when individuals got criminal convictions for making a stand for things they believe in, which brings us up to date with the last one where Greenpeace people got onto the oil rig on the Cromarty Firth in 2019.”

Jon hopes the play might have a future life with perhaps a tour of Black Isle village halls later in the year.

The Riot of Resolis will be performed at 2pm and 8pm in the Victoria Hall, Cromarty, next Friday (May 6). Tickets: £10 adults; £5 under 16s. Email or phone 01381 600354 or, if combining with other crime weekend events, complete and return the booking form here: www.cromartyartstrust.org.uk/crime-and-thrillers Seating is ‘in the round’ and numbers are limited, so book early.

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