The show uses its own props and symbols that make great centre pieces for our image, but it was a hard thing to narrow down the rest. The fish supper and Tenants Super are cardinal of course, but I couldn’t satisfy my imagination without a ubiquitous traffic cone, old runners, or seagul that come with the territory of modern Scotland. Thankfully we reached a happy medium of artifact and artiface for the final image, but not before I turned the rehearsal rooms into a bazaar of salvage with more than a faint fragrance of poisonous alcohol and battered fish.
As you read, if the band are not currently performing in Thurso, they are on their way through Tongue, Ullapool and Oban, purveying and deciphering the great mystery of Scottishness as they go.
I feel pretty grateful to hold this document in my hands. A playtext, precious on two counts. Firstly, In Time O’ Strife, the latest production from NTS. Its genesis in the writings of Joe Corrie, a beautiful but largely obscure Fife poet and playwright. “Obscure” may be an unjust description of this striking and humbling career, but it does hint at the ephemeral coincidence and fortunes that brought his writings back to the stage in 2013. A reminder that some of the most brilliant works spend a lifetime on the verge of never happening.
Secondly, this is my first published playtext. With images from my shoot with the company during rehearsals, the script becomes a more immersive medium to get lost in Corrie’s writing. I was sat front row centre last week for the opening of the production’s short run. A brave seat choice, as Joe Corrie’s words crystallised before us into a thunderous and emotional wave of stark, politicised energy. But gratitude remained as the smoke and lights cleared. To have worked on something so unintentionally evasive enjoy only a fleeting run. It felt that history was being made and remade on a torrential October night in Kirkcaldy.
|Hannah Donaldson, Ewan Stewart, Tom McGovern, Vicki Manderson, Paul Tinto, Owen Whitelaw, Anita Vettesse|
|Ewan Stewart as Jock|
|Ewan Stewart and Anita Vettesse|
|Anita Vetesse as Jean|
|Owen Whitelaw and Hannah Donaldson|
|Hannah Donaldson as Jenny|
|Owen Whitelaw as Wull Baxter|
|Paul Tinto as Bob|
|Vicki Manderson as Kate|
|Tom McGovern as Tam|
|MJ McCarthy, Jennifer Reeve, Johnny Scott, Adam John Scott|
This weekend ushers in the end of The Arches Behavior Festival for 2013. A heady five weeks of completely new work for the stage from Scottish and international artists. Eclectic and contemporary as only the Arches can, even the term “stage” is only applied loosely. This year saw a new creative partnership come to fruition between the Arches and NTS, which I am very indebted to have been involved in from early on.
The project gave five rising Scottish devisers an opportunity to research, incubate and perform new work at the festival. Each with their own developing trademarks and disciplines, some of them out and out rogues, but all of them auteurs of their craft. Having had the chance to meet them together for the school portrait lineup for a feature in The List, I was brimming to shoot all of their performances individually over the course of the month.
First was Gary McNair’s brilliantly referential investigation into stand-up comedy: Donald Robertson is not a Comedian.
Kieran Hurley explored notions of community and ideals of Scottishness in, effectively, a living room jamboree. Intimate and foot tapping: Rantin
Claire Cunningham’s ongoing curiosity in the body brought her to and back from Cambodia to begin a work meditating on the effects of landmines. A framework of disability through which the indiscriminate excess of war can be viewed from a humble perspective: Pink Mist
Finally, Rob Drummond’s centenary revisiting of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, through a screen of contemporary dance and music as well as recent societal dysfunctions. Leaving the outcome in the hands of the audience: The Riots of Spring
There have been heaps of great writing documenting the Festival, but for a succinct in house perspective check out Rosie’s blog.
The National Theatre of Scotland are re-imagining a literally wicked classic in the most wicked way. Currently in rehearsal at Tramway in Glasgow, this dark, modernised rendition of Shakespeare is set against the backdrop of a ward in a psychiatric asylum. It’s sole inmate, none other than Alan Cumming, channels each of the main antagonists in beautiful, tortured monologues, echoing the darkest elements of the script in the shadowy, schizophrenic milieu.
Exciting stuff indeed. I was delighted to lend my interpretation to the rehearsal production images. It is always thrilling to see something monumental in development, and the scale of the set, rich with decayed, rusty detail, really appeals to the dark side of my image making. Images have already been used in an early review by the Scotsman.
For me personally, it has really blown off some cobwebs from the days I studied Macbeth for the marathon trials of Leaving Cert English in Ireland. Try as you might at that tender age when all that would make you happy in the world would be to barely pass a subject, let alone engage with the material. Something with as fresh and contemporary a treatment would have been just the ingredient for my young jaded mind. Still though, its not too late. Better get my tickets!
Check out the Trailer for the show below.
I had the great pleasure of shooting Greg Hemphill for the pre-production poster of the National Theatre of Scotland‘s new show that launched in Aberdeen on Tuesday. I am biding my time and praying to my diary for the chance to get my tickets for its visit to Glasgow.
The show is a heart-felt adaptation of the cult film starring Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward. If our portrait shoot is anything to go on, then the production looks set to be a total howl. I was asked to coax the Lord Summerisle from Greg so the designers could later dress and drop in front of a towering wicker inferno. Needless to say there was little coaxing needed.
It has been great to see the poster spread out across the local and national media. It has made the headlines a couple of times! I keep bumping into it inadvertently when I turn the pages of magazines and the papers. The company are broadcasting their production trials and tribulations from the NTS blog and in some top notch videos.
Book your appointment!
Lame pun. Sorry.
In one long overdue sweep of the hand, here comes a round-up like never before. Over the next few weeks i have a deep reservoir of work to excavate from the last few months. Live music, theatre, pop-up events, some celebration and the man in the street. The countdown is on to plaster up the blog before the new year arrives and with it that elusive “blank slate.” And i don’t want to be the one sitting on mountains of unsung footage while everyone else is off playing in the lush glens of paradise this new year now, do i?
To kick off the deluge of imagery is some of the rehearsal coverage from the the recent NTS production Truant. That December is rolling in, full of glowing fanfare and frosty promise and, for many, it inevitably ends as the year began, at home with family. Truant shines a cold light on youth and adolescence as much as it does on the family unit. Depicting the broken home from every class across the full spectrum of hurt and negligence, it hits our idea of truancy and family from every angle. It is an emotional confrontation that beautifully balances terse and very human dialogue with daydream sequences of abstract movement.
I was very happy to be able to be part of Truant’s development. It is always exciting to see a performance slowly tighten up over rehearsals until it uncoils itself in the theatre. It has finished its tour in the theatres and community centres of Glasgow but hopefully this is not the end of the road.
This month’s frame holds a still from a a tech of 27. The show is a National Theatre of Scotland production that ran at the Lyceum Theatre this month. Starring Maureen Beattie as Sister Ursula, an old story of faith and virtue in a closed orthodoxy, is clashed against the contemporary threat of the bitter, sprawling pharmaceutical economy.
However, none of this is in my image. It tells of a dilemma. It as much depicts someone on the margins of dark thoughts as it does directly project a darkness of its own in its composition. A bleak black backdrop, all detail is swept away and the image we remain with is a very sparse and morbid scene of contemplation. Over all the other images of our shoot, with the spectacular set and subtle expression of the actors, this stands out almost as a single image summary of Ursula’s pervading doubt.
Since this was shot in a tech rehearsal (for the lights and stage) rather than a performance, I was lucky to see this in a moment where the actors were waiting for their cues. It wasn’t scripted or rehearsed, it was altogether unintended.
Perhaps the moral of this month is that the image that screams loudest does not always have the best story.