This summer, explore the newly-forged Union Canal and the Falkirk Tunnel, expertly guided by Messrs Burke and Hare – two of the men who helped carve the colossal channel.
This dark tour comes with a warning, though… it might be the change in temperature, the perpetual darkness or the sound of whispering across the water, but something unnatural lurks in the shadows of the tunnel – and in the hearts of your guides…
Visitors to the Union Canal will have the chance to experience a world of body snatchers, love, murder and deceit this August as the Falkirk Tunnel is transformed into a unique pop-up theatre venue telling the grisly tale of two of Scotland’s most notorious criminals.
‘The Resurrection,’ the new play from Scottish Canals and The Walking Theatre Company, will see guests enter the eerie depths of the Falkirk Tunnel as they learn about the dark deeds of ‘resurrection men’ William Burke and William Hare.
The pair, who moved from Ireland to Scotland to work as ‘navvies’ constructing the Union Canal in the early 1800s, would go on to establish their reputation on the streets of Edinburgh in the business of murder – luring victims to stay in the Hare guesthouse and selling the resulting bodies for medical experimentation.
The Resurrection tells their gory tale and is the first theatrical performance to take place in the Falkirk Tunnel. Scotland’s oldest and longest canal tunnel, the 630-metre-long channel was blasted and hewn from the rugged rock beneath Prospect Hill in Falkirk almost 200 years ago by ‘navvies’ like Burke and Hare. Designed by Union Canal engineer Hugh Baird, today it is the nation’s last surviving original canal tunnel.
The lighting in the tunnel was upgraded last year with a new LED system thanks to funding raised by Scottish Waterways Trust from Avondale Environmental through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund and sportscotland’s Active Places fund. Sustrans Scotland and Falkirk Council also helped fund the lighting upgrade. The new programmable system highlights its historic fabric – the candle holders, stalactites, dynamite stores and shafts – and allows the space to be used in innovative new ways.
Sadie Dixon-Spain, Playwright and Artistic Director at The Walking Theatre Company, said: “Walking along the edge of the Union Canal, through the wet crystalline walls of the Falkirk Tunnel, you are immediately struck by the magnitude of the structure, the shear depth and length is breathtaking.
“As a writer, to have the opportunity to use this landscape as inspiration for a site-specific play is extraordinary; a more unusual site for theatre you would be hard-pushed to find.
“Our guests will feel history and landscape collide, to be linked by performance, as we take them on a journey into the tunnel’s darkness, entering a world of shadow that will be a huge adventure for us all.”
Tickets for The Resurrection are available now from www.canaltheatre.co.uk, with performances commencing on August 4th. Additional performances will be available subject to demand.