Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 13:00 UK

Actor tackles 'the great beast'

Loch Ness
Aleister Crowley has associations with Loch Ness

A new one-man play tackles the life of an occultist dubbed the "most evil man in the world" and "the great beast".

Writer and actor John Burns will perform Beast: Aleister Crowley, a Passion for Evil at two Highland venues on Saturday and next month.

Crowley, who died in 1947, lived at Boleskin House above Loch Ness from 1899 to 1913.

One of the play's venues is Gorthleck Village Hall, which lies a short distance from the property.

It will first be performed at the Little Theatre Nairn on Saturday.

The play has been announced on the website of arts and cultural development agency Hi-Arts.

What is not well known about Crowley is that he was an exceptional mountaineer
John Burns

Burns researched Crowley's life, looking at the effect of his father's death when he was 11 and his subsequent upbringing at "brutal" Victorian public schools.

He also investigated his beliefs, fascination with magic and his feats as a mountaineer.

The writer said his work did not set out to defend its subject.

Burns first became interested in Crowley when he moved to Inverness 20 years ago and spotted his name in the log book of Inverness Mountaineering Club.

A keen climber himself, Burns said: "What is not well known about Crowley is that he was an exceptional mountaineer and, you could argue, was one of the foremost of his generation."

Burns hopes to take the play to next year's Edinburgh Fringe where he has previously done stand-up comedy.

Anti-British propaganda

He said: "While doing stand up at the Fringe I saw many one-man shows, including those about the Elephant Man and Robert Maxwell, and they were the motivation behind writing this one."

Englishman Crowley became infamous in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century for his promotion of the occult.

During World War I, he wrote anti-British propaganda.

He was also an experienced climber and was part of an ill-fated attempt to scale K2, in modern day Pakistan, in 1902.

On one expedition in the Himalaya, he was delirious with malaria and pulled a revolver on a companion believing he was attacking him.

Boleskin House was later owned by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

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