Category Archives: FEATURES

FEATURE: The Tron Ambassadors Programme Part 2

Since 2003 the Tron have enabled young people to experience a range of the career opportunities available within a fully operational theatre via the one-year Tron Ambassadors scheme. Through this scheme they foster deeper connections with the theatre itself, and the work they do both in-house and within the community, as well as an understanding of the wider theatre and creative arts industries.

Tron Ambassadors take part in regular workshops with Tron staff, external visitors and leading professionals to identify and develop transferable skills. Previous Tron Ambassadors have worked with the Tron’s production, marketing and front of house departments, theatre critics, set and costume designers and professional actors and directors. The programme also allows the Ambassadors to gain an Arts Award qualification from their full participation in the programme.

For the past four years, I have been lucky enough to work with these talented young people on the theatre criticism element of the programme. Always a joy to discover new voices and foster new talent in the field of arts criticism, I have also had the privilege of working with the most talented writers at The Reviews Hub.

Published here are the next batch of reviews of How Not to Drown, Dritan Kastrati’s perilous asylum story.

Reviewer: Helena Leite

ThickSkin’s production of How Not To Drown, the story of eleven-year-old asylum seeker Dritan Kastrati’s unaccompanied journey to the UK, pulls on the heart strings and leaves us all questioning how much we should appreciate our own lives.

Kastrati’s journey begins in 2002 within the aftermath of the Kosovan War and at such a young age is sent away by his parents to be smuggled to the UK for safety. His journey is perilous and the only things he has in order to survive are his wit and charm. Kastrati struggles to cling to his identity and feels a sense of self-loss when he is put into the British care system.

Dritan himself tells the entire story, and in a Brechtian style of switching roles suddenly, other members of the cast also play the role of Kastrati as well as the influential people in his journey. This aspect of the performance stands out, catching the attention,  leaving you curious to see the other actors’ interpretation of the eleven-year-old Dritan.

The set design is simple but affective, showing the limited amount of supplies Dritan had, and also, the fact the acting space is a raised, relatively small, wooden platform, emphasises this young boy’s isolation. The platform is also on a slight gradient, seemingly representing the mental and physical struggle Kastrati faced on his journey, the actors having to work tirelessly to keep up their energy.

How Not To Drown is more than worthy of its Scotsman Fringe First Award and is definitely to be recommended to anyone who enjoys true theatrical authenticity, and also those who are willing to learn of the trials asylum seekers must go through in order to survive.

 

Reviewer: Holly Morton

Forward, forward, forward. Or Down. Or Nothing. The mantra Dritan Kastrati repeats to himself in How Not To Drown, his intensely emotional life story.Through his play, Kastrati sheds light on the previously unseen side of foster care in the UK, and the unfathomable difficulties faced by refugees.

Kastrati himself is brilliant, laying his whole life out for the audience to step into, and punctuating every scene with his real, raw emotion. The five fantastic actors, who perfectly flick between roles throughout, manage to perform flawless choreography on a tilted, rotating stage. Words cannot encapsulate the effect How Not To Drown has on the audience, which shares an essential message on family that all deserve to see.

Reviewer: Abbie Miller

This amazing tale tells the extremely hard but true story of a young Albanian/Kosovan child named Dritan. Dritan’s father forces him to leave his home country for his own safety. This amazing young boy has only ever known war and violence now must take on a whole different type of challenge in the British foster care system. This tragic yet inspiring story is by the Thick Skin theatre company and they manage to do an amazing job telling it.

Even though not everyone can relate to this show, especially this reviewer as a sixteen-year-old Scottish girl, the message behind the show is still very clear. It teaches you to have strength, gives you perspective on your own life and even changes the way you view things.

The character Dritan is played by Kastrati himself which only makes this show even more special. This cast, although small, are an extremely strong team who all trust and rely on each other, making the show ten times better, as you can practically see their bond.

The characters in the show are not restricted by age or gender or even race, and no one actor is set to play the same character for the whole play, which shows us just how truly talented these actors are. To be able to change to a completely different character in a second is truly phenomenal.

It is impossible not to enthralled when watching this play even though there are no dramatic costumes or intricate sets, the story is the only thing needed. They way the lights are used is enough to keep you on your seats too, when Dritan is on the raft heading for England there is a red floodlight used to represent the danger he is in and when he falls into the water the red floodlight changes to a blue one, this represents the water that surrounds him as he tries to escape it.

We watch as Dritan makes the hard and gruelling journey to England and then his terrifying experience whilst trying to get registered as a British citizen, then as he suffers in the foster care system after being taken away from his brother who had been sent to England a few years before Dritan. At school, there is no respite as he is constantly bullied for not being white and not being able to speak English. Throughout the play you have the urge to stand up and tell Dritan that everything will be alright whilst also being too scared to move a muscle in fear you miss something.

How Not to Drown is a truly exceptional play that will have you leaving the theatre an emotional wreck with a new point of view on the world. This story will hopefully become known across the world so that people know they are not alone and teach people how hard life can be for different people; you should always treat people the way you want to be treated yourself – no matter what.

Reviewer: Danny Taggart

The moving story How Not to Drown is the story of the hard life of Kosovan/Albanian boy, Dritan Kastrati, who is forced by his father to seek a new beginning in a new country. The young kid who has previously grown up surrounded by war and destruction, now must face another kind of hardship in the UK foster care system. The uplifting, but traumatic show is by the theatre company Thick Skin.

While the show is hard to relate to as a 14-year-old Glaswegian teenager it is easy to see the message is very important. This play changes your outlook on life by making you think about how easy you have it. And the fact that Dritan is played by Dritan Kastrati himself, makes the whole thing even more powerful.

The show cleverly has interchanging roles, allowing you to see each one of these talented actors’ performance of Dritan. The cast seamlessly switching between roles without breaking the atmosphere. The small cast seem to have a very strong relationship which only adds to making you feel like part of the action.

Like the rotating roles, the stage also rotates giving you different perspectives of the action. Allowing you to never become bored of the one very simple-seeming set. This is not the only clever aspect of the set design with a chain that allows the actors to lean into the audience which connects you to them.

There is clever use of light too, when a character leans into the audience, a very simple white light shines on them showing their emotions or thoughts at that time. The sound and music immerse you into the show making you feel like you are that little scared young boy.

As you follow Kastrati from his journey on the boat trying to make his way to the UK, to the tough asylum seeking process and then through his horrible experience in the foster care system where he was so excluded from his normal way of life, you just want to tell him everything is going to end up fine, How Not To Drown is a phenomenal play. It will have you walking out at the end with a new perspective.

This show should be remembered and will hopefully make many people have a new outlook on the tough prospects that people on our very doorsteps go through every day of their lives.

 

Reviewer: Jack Byrne

Fringe First Award-winning How Not to Drown, manages to defy expectations and leave a lasting impact.

How Not to Drown focuses on the true story of Dritan Kastrati, writer and star of the play. It tells of how, when he was only 11 years old, his father sent him on his own to the UK from their home in Kosovo, to escape the Kosovan war.

Before the performance even begins, we are met with the stage; a makeshift raft made from planks of wood nailed together, raised up at one side to create a downward slope. Very clever, from the outset, it creates a sense of imbalance. The actors are constantly working to stay upright as they move around the stage.

From the outset we are drawn into Kastrati’s story. It is a harrowing yet uplifting tale, full of humour and heart. The fact that Kastrati himself is telling the story, makes it more real. It takes great bravery to stand in front of an audience and share intimate details of your own personal experience.

The storytelling is fast paced and, as we move from scene to scene, Kastrati and the four other actors are constantly changing characters, with each actor playing Dritan at least once. The idea that they are all Dritan symbolised how we can all relate to his story in some way or another. By the end of the performance you will be in tears, completely moved by the performance, unexpectedly deeply affected by the show, with new-found respect for Kastrati and everyone who has gone through the same thing.

The show is outstanding and definitely to be recommended. Go and see it if you get the chance.

 

Reviewer: Ros Butchart

How Not to Drown is an emotive and captivating play based around the true story of a young boy’s journey from his conflict endangered home to England. It is thought provoking and strikes the perfect balance between heartbreaking and humorous.

Throughout the play there are certain powerful themes that are emphasised, one being that the young boy, Dritan Kastrati or Tan as he is known, is unable to swim. Tan repeats a sort of mantra to himself “forward, forward or down or nothing”, and this serves as a powerful metaphor for the obstacles he faces while growing up and struggling to get to England, the struggle find a home there and then find a place that really feels like home at all. This play deals with real life issues such as the difficulties people in war effected countries face, being an immigrant in a foreign country and the overwhelming bureaucracy of the care system.

At the very beginning of the show we see Dritan being thrown into a river by his older brother and his brothers’ friends, and this is done beautifully as Dritan is tilted forward at an impossible angle of an already tilted stage when he says his mantra for the first time.

This opening is extremely effective in grasping the watcher’s attention, but more so than that, keeping it with the same enchanting intensity consistently present throughout. The ideas of repeated patterns and themes, for example Dritan’s mantra and his ability to read the true intentions of others (which proves to be a key skill that helps him on his journey) , these factors are both impressive and impactful as they really help the audience sink into the rhythm of the play.

Another impressive aspect of the show is the set and staging, with a small cast of only five the storytelling is seamless and engaging. The play is set on a raised, angled wooden surface that represented a raft, the actors ducking behind the stage and appearing again as a different character or to bring on props so smoothly it contributes to the overall dynamic of the play. The piece also incorporates a lot of physical theatre and this is executed flawlessly, the group moving as one.

This is a sharp and well executed production, and the raw emotion displayed on stage leaves you breathless. Without a doubt one of the most impactful pieces of theatre on the current theatrical scene.

Beautifully constructed, this truthful play tells a story that needs to be heard.

Images: Mihaela Bodlovic

FEATURE: The Tron Ambassadors Programme Part 1

Since 2003 the Tron have enabled young people to experience a range of the career opportunities available within a fully operational theatre via the one-year Tron Ambassadors scheme. Through this scheme they foster deeper connections with the theatre itself, and the work they do both in-house and within the community, as well as an understanding of the wider theatre and creative arts industries.

Tron Ambassadors take part in regular workshops with Tron staff, external visitors and leading professionals to identify and develop transferable skills. Previous Tron Ambassadors have worked with the Tron’s production, marketing and front of house departments, theatre critics, set and costume designers and professional actors and directors. The programme also allows the Ambassadors to gain an Arts Award qualification from their full participation in the programme.

For the past four years, I have been lucky enough to work with these talented young people on the theatre criticism element of the programme. Always a joy to discover new voices and foster new talent in the field of arts criticism, I have also had the privilege of working with the most talented writers at The Reviews Hub.

Published here are the first batch of reviews of How Not to Drown, Dritan Kastrati’s perilous asylum story.

 

How Not to Drown

Reviewer: Holly Noble

Far too often we see on the news the horrific scenes of refugees fleeing their homes, family and friends just to get the taste of freedom. We see boats upturned, people struggling to swim and the terrifying death toll that increases every year. It isn’t often we hear a first-hand account from someone who was successful in the journey.

Dritan Kastrati’s How Not to Drown tells of his extraordinary personal story of loss, hardship and loneliness as he navigates his way to London, the danger of being caught always following him. What you often don’t hear is what happens after immigrants seek refuge. For Kastrati this was anything but easy; through learning a new culture and language, to trying to find a loving family through the foster care system.

The acting is excellent, giving you goose bumps, knowing that Kastrati is standing right in front of you as he tells you the story of his trials and tribulations.

The stage resembles a raft on an angle that spins around, this original device is effective in conveying the story. The small cast and the limited number of props are effective rather than distracting. The lighting and music is tied in well, giving you chills and adding drama.

After seeing How Not to Drown, it is clear, that it deserves all the recognition and awards it has received.

 

Reviewer: Astrid Allen

How not to drown is the story of Dritan Kastrati, an 11-year-old refugee from Kosovo travelling to the UK sent by his father to find his brother in London. Kastrati co-writer and actor performs his own life story, and the result is powerful and moving. The play explores what it is like to be torn between two cultures and the true inhuman nature of the UK fostering system.

In the first half of the play we get to see Dritan’s perilous journey on train, boat and lorry. The cast all have backgrounds in movement and director Neil Bettles choreographs movement with beautiful fluidity and keeps the audience in suspense during the journey.

When Dritan arrives in London he meets his 17 year old brother but they are soon separated and Dritan is put into foster care as his brother cannot legally look after him. He cannot understand why he would not be able to stay with his brother but he does not have the English to explain. Heartbreakingly, Dritan is put into a number of uncaring foster families until he is 16 and is legally allowed to leave care. He never truly feels at home with his carers and he can tell that none of them will ever really love him, Dritan misses his family and that feeling of being loved.

After his 16th birthday Dritan goes back to see his parents but they’ve moved from his childhood home and it doesn’t feel the same as it used to. Dritan is lost and no longer understands his own identity. This play is heart-wrenchingly honest, it holds nothing back from the audience and will invariably make you cry.

Reviewer: Devin McWhirter

Theatre has the power to portray important messages in an entertaining way and can draw a variety of emotions from audience members, and we see this in the extraordinary How not to Drown.

The play portrays the true story of Dritan Kastrati’s childhood and the dangerous journey from his war ridden home to the safety of his brother in London.

How Not to Drown, has the power both to draw you to the edge of your as it portrays Kastrati’s dangerous journey to get to London, and evoke anger and sadness at the discrimination and hardships he has had to face from the Law, Child Services and the carers he was forced to live with. It also moves greatly, particularly the scenes of him being torn away from his family.

How Not to Drown is a very relevant and important story that should be see and listened to by the widest audience possible.

Reviewer: Amy Waterston 

How Not to Drown is an exquisite piece of theatre which is a perfect example of theatre being a “mirror of society.”

The production’s use of the five versatile actors in multiple roles, not only showcases the cast’s acting ability, but also the intricate direction of the production, forcing the audience to realise the true horror of what is happening to people living in care today.

How Not to Drown captures these raw issues, due to the storyline following the real life of the lead actor Dritan Kastrati. The physicality of the piece draws the audience’s attention to the whirlwind of issues that Kastrati experienced. As an audience member, the piece really hits home as its impossible to question fact. This emphasised the upsetting reality and was a prime example of how powerful physical theatre can be.

Reviewer: Jacob McMillan

The story of a young Kosovan refugee and his treacherous journey through human smugglers, foster care, and life; told first-hand by the man he has become.
This play, from the staging to the sound design to the performances, is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. Caught in the middle of the Kosovan-Albanian war, Dritan Kastrati left his home at eleven but didn’t know that he would never truly find it again.
The staging in this performance is incredible; the slanted stage is simply genius. Throughout the play, the performers lean out, as if to tell a secret, to the audience. This creates a sense of involvement for the audience, you are on the smuggling boat or in the foster home with the protagonists. It is no wonder why this play won the Scotsman Fringe First Award.
Truly brilliant, it will be interesting to see what comes from next from Kastrati.

Reviewer: Stanley Stefani

How Not to Drown is a masterclass in theatrical storytelling, portrayed by the man who went through it.

Utilising the very clever use of a rotating slanted stage to add to the creativity throughout the play, Dritan Kastrati tells the emotionally compelling story of growing up and being forced to leave his home country to join his brother his London. Conveying the full journey that 11-year-old Dritan takes in order to escape the wars in his home.

This is a beautifully told story and is a must see for anyone with an interest in amazing pieces of theatre.

Reviewer: Euan Warnock

It is interesting to think that How Not To Drown is named the way it is, not just because of the instances of our real life protagonist panicking under the depths, but also because of the feeling that the performance engenders in you, a ‘sinking feeling’, right down to the caverns of your soul.

Right from the opening five minutes, all the way to the final third… as a matter of fact, those would be the most brilliant part of an already great drama, How Not To Drown manages to keep its audience captivated with an ever-twisting, ever-turning, (most of the time quite literally, with the remarkable stage design) real life tale of a little refugee boy trying to worm his way through the British asylum system.

The innovative set design, especially the smaller and raised addition on which the actors spend almost the entire performance, causes the show to feel even smaller in scale, but this disadvantage is used to a wonderful degree. Whenever the stage feels small, it is because it is meant to feel claustrophobic, and the way it moves, without spoiling anything, is used fantastically.

One of the main draws of this production is that it is a real life story, written and performed by the man (Dritan Kastrati) who lived through it, and for the final third of the play it becomes quite clear that he isn’t fully acting, he is still clearly feeling all of the emotions of how it happened all those years ago.

This is a five-star production, unique and expertly staged, with incredible acting, and a captivating story of a little boy washed up in the United Kingdom, trying to find his way along the path to happiness.

More Tron Ambassadors reviews to follow in part 2.

FEATURE: Ayr Gaiety’s Young Company explore the age divide and stereotypes with their brand-new drama Young Blood

The Gaiety’s Young Theatre Company (comprising of 22 young people aged 16-25 years from across Ayrshire) are collaborating with The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Young Company and groups of elderly people in Glasgow and Ayrshire to create this original performance piece.

Based on experiments in the U.S.A in 2014 where scientists found a way to take the blood of young mice and inject it into old mice to make them faster, stronger, and healthier, resulting in the young mice being worn out and used up. The Young Company question the ideas that this could work for humans and the perceived implications for young people, using this as the basis of their original play, and part live experiment that will be showcased on The Gaiety stage on the 2nd April.

Tackling and questioning the societal views of age, they are aiming to create conversations that will challenge us to become a more tolerant society. Since January 2019 our participants have been researching, writing and debating the views around ageing, and how these views cause unnecessary divides between generations.

With laughter, music, and ‘Young Blood’, expect your ideas of age to be challenged in this unique play written and performed by 35 of Scotland’s young people.

Listing Information

Young Blood

2nd April, 7:30pm

Main Theatre

£4.00 – £8.00

Phone: 01292 288235

Online: www.thegaiety.co.uk

Box Office: The Gaiety, Carrick Street, Ayr

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors 2018

Since 2003 the Tron Theatre has enabled young people to experience a range of the career opportunities available within a modern fully-operational theatre via the one-year Tron Ambassadors scheme. Through the scheme the intention is to foster deeper connections with the Tron Theatre, and the work they do both in-house and within the community, as well as an understanding of the wider theatre and creative arts industries.

The Ambassadors take part in regular workshops with Tron staff, external visitors and leading professionals to identify and develop transferable skills.  Previous Tron Ambassadors have worked with the Tron’s production, marketing and front of house departments, theatre critics, set and costume designers and professional actors and directors.

This year, as well as the excellent opportunities and insight offered on the programme, the Tron Ambassadors will also be eligible to gain an Arts Award qualification from their full participation in the programme.

This year, I was again delighted to deliver the Theatre Criticism/Theatre Blogging workshop. As well as learning about the technical aspects of running a theatre website, we looked at the opportunities/transferrable skills that can help you pursue a career in different aspects of the arts, the pros and cons of running a theatre website and how to approach writing reviews.

As ever, the breadth of talent is truly inspiring and I am delighted to feature some of the Ambassadors’ reviews of National Theatre of Scotland and Theatre Gu Leòr’s play Scotties.

Head to the reviews section or click the link HERE to read.

INTERVIEW: Scottish actor Martin Docherty currently touring Scotland with acclaimed play McLuckie’s Line.

Scottish actor Martin Docherty, who is currently touring Scotland with McLuckie’s Line chatted with Glasgow Theatre Blog about this hugely acclaimed show, coming to Glen Halls in Neilston on Tuesday 25 September and Eastwood Park Theatre on Wednesday 26 September.

Tickets are £9, available from: https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/9670/McLuckies-Line.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

The play is a funny, sad , raw hard hitting monolougue about Lawrence McLuckie , an out of work actor and compulsive gambler who is waiting in a hospital corridor for his first session of Chemo after being diagnosed with cancer. He is also waiting on a call from his agent about the biggest part he will have ever had. He can’t stand the silence so he begins to talk.

And your role…

McLuckie’s Line is an old fashioned working class tale where I play 32 characters!

McLuckie is a nice guy who has been dealt a bad hand. He’s a great actor but like most actors he struggles to get work. He has always seen life as a bit of a gamble but the stakes are really high. He ponders his life as he faces his mortality.

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations?

The play is very Glaswegian and goes down a storm in Glasgow and the surrounding area but it is also going down well in Inverness, Dundee and Stirling. People no matter where can relate to Mcluckie or other characters in the play.

What is life like backstage on tour?

Life backstage on this show is different from any other I’ve done mainly because I’m on my own. It can get a bit lonely. I have to ensure the lights, sound queues etc are spot on and ensure before I leave the house that I have everything as there is no stage manager. I feel I’m learning all the time though I could do with a chum now and again.

Touring can be demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh/look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?

The travelling and performing is something I’m used to as an actor.  It can be tough and a little stressful relying on Scotrail. I tend to get to the venue around 2.30pm, run the technical stuff then try and relax. Then ensure I have a good meal and get home asap to get enough sleep. It’s tricky trying to peak at 7.30pm but like I say I’ve been acting for 21 years so my body is used to it, I guess.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one?

I started acting when I was 10 years old thanks to my sister who was in an amateur company. My first part was the Artful Dodger in Oliver. I auditioned for the RSAMD when I was 20, was accepted and I loved it. It truly is my dream job and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

Advice for actors…..I would say only do it if it really is your dream. Be prepared to take rejection and have periods without work and constantly work at your craft.  When not working spend at least an hour doing something, your voice, your physicality, sight read the newspaper. You must always be trying to improve.

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? and where else can we see it?

People should come and see McLuckie’s Line as it deals with many issues that can affect us all . You’ll laugh, you may cry. It’s just me, three chairs and some props . There is no fancy set or costumes . It’s theatre stripped back to pure storytelling. Most importantly I think you’ll have a good night out at the Theatre. There is something for everyone I’m McLuckie’s Line. Writer Martin (Traverse) and I are very proud of it.

Glen Halls in Neilston on Tuesday 25 September and Eastwood Park Theatre on Wednesday 26 September.

Tickets are £9, available from: https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/9670/McLuckies-Line.

FUN FROM THE ARCHIVES: Broadway Bears

With the blog nearly seven years old and while flicking through the archives, I stumbled upon some posts from the early days of the site that I’d forgotten about. So in this short series of blasts from the past, here are some fun favourites that deserve another airing.

First up it’s Broadway Bears.

For 15 years The Broadway Bears, the annual auction of handmade, one-of-a-kind, theatrically costumed teddy bears raised money for the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS appeal. 2012 saw the final auction and was among the most spectacular, bringing the total collected for the charity to more than 2 million dollars.

Can you name all of the musicals involved? Answers at the end of each gallery.

Cats, Grease, Jersey Boys, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Follies, The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, The Producers and War Horse.

Avenue Q, Beauty and the Beast, Billy Elliot, Evita, Jerusalem, Mamma Mia, Shrek, Sister Act and Wicked.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Backstage photo tour of Glasgow’s Theatre Royal

Here is a glimpse behind the scenes of Glasgow’s oldest and Scotland’s longest-running theatre, the Theatre Royal.

Originally opening as the Royal Colosseum & Opera House in 1867, the theatre changed its name in 1869 on receiving its royal charter (and confirmation of respectability) from Queen Victoria.

Literally hewn from the stone quarry below, it has survived multiple fires, changes of ownership and a stint as the headquarters of Scottish Television and now stands resplendent on the corner of Hope Street and Cowcaddens Road, its Victorian auditorium restored to its full glory and its 2014 extension shining like a splendid jewel. Home to Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet the grande dame of Scottish theatre is better than it has ever been in its near-150 year life.

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The new foyer and staircase designed by Page and Park and opened during the 2014 festive season.

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FEATURE: From Stage to Screen – Pop Art inspired by Film Adaptations of Stage Plays.

Art & Hue treads the boards for the new collection of pop art inspired by plays adapted into films.
From the glitzy showbiz of musicals to the provocative black comedy of Joe Orton, Art & Hue has transformed images from the archives of Studiocanal into eight stylish pop art prints which celebrate iconic productions and actors.

All prints in the From Stage to Screen collection are available in three sizes and a wide choice of colour options, including a new combination of vibrant orange & purple inspired by posters from the 1968 production of The Anniversary starring Bette Davis.

The theatrical collection includes a re-imagined poster for the first all-British talking picture with sound released in 1929, BlackMail directed by Alfred Hitchcock, as well as Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane with Beryl Reid, Peter McEnery & Harry Andrews.

Screen doyenne Bette Davis in The Anniversary gets the Art & Hue treatment as does the cult B-movie sci-fi production of Devil Girl From Mars with Patricia Laffan.

The Edinburgh-set musical Let’s Be Happy is pure Strictly-come-dancing ballroom glamour, with Tony Martin in his white tuxedo and Vera-Ellen as a high-kicking showgirl.

Completing the collection, ukulele king George Formby features in an illustrated reworking of “Turned Out Nice Again” and Barbara Windsor takes centre-stage as the prominent star of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop production of “Sparrows Can’t Sing”.

A stylish way to bring the theatre into the home, the collection features Art & Hue’s signature halftone style (halftone is an age-old technique that uses dots to make up the printed image, similar to newspapers or comic books).

Unlike traditional posters, which are printed on thin paper with inks that fade, Art & Hue creates giclée art prints, printed on 310gsm archival card, made from 100% cotton, with fine-art museum-grade pigment inks to last hundreds of years.
Available exclusively online at artandhue.com/plays  

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors guest reviews

This month, I again had the chance to work with the Tron Theatre on their Ambassadors programme, delivering their theatre reviewing workshop.

The Tron Ambassadors scheme gives pupils the chance to be behind-the-scenes at a working theatre. It enables young people to make a deeper connection with the Tron Theatre and gain a better understanding of the industry. As well as providing participants with opportunities to take part in workshops, tasks, and interviewing and observing industry professionals, the Ambassadors are given opportunities to understand the transferable skills they are learning and how they can be applied to any career path they choose to take when leaving school.

Below are the reviews submitted by this year’s Ambassadors, I am sure you’ll agree the quality in many instances is equal to that of any published critic. Biographies of the writers are available at: https://www.tron.co.uk/education/work-for-schools/tron_ambassadors/

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Daniel Cawley

Stand By is an exceptionally well written and powerful piece of theatre from the pen of former police officer Adam McNamara, who reverently conveys to the audience the warts and all portrayal of the all too often hidden aspect of on the ground police work.

By looking at the strength of character of four very different personalities and how their work impacts on their personal lives, this helps humanise the people behind the uniform who, as authority figures are often perceived as indifferent and emotionless to these qualities.

With much of the action taking place within a simulated, dimly lit police van, the play, on this occasion expertly directed by Joe Douglas, draws the audience in even further through the unique and innovative use of amplified earpieces. These allow the audience to hear radio broadcasts in sync with the actors and immerses them in the tension felt by police officers on call.

With some hilarious comedic moments and strong physical theatre elements this is a show not to be missed and thoroughly deserves the rave reviews received to date.

So, don’t stand by and let this one escape, catch it while you can.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Daniel Cawley

Following on from its successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, James Rowland brings his captivating one man show Team Viking to audiences across the country.

Using every inch of the almost bare stage and delivering his soliloquy in a black funeral suit, Rowland paints a picture of childhood memories and friendships forged, interspersed with music and rhyme, with verses becoming longer and more descriptive with each passing scene.  The main focus of the show is the personal homage Rowland pays to his friend who has asked for something special when he dies.  And special it is.

Coming quicker than any of them expected (his friend being diagnosed with an aggressive form of heart cancer at the tender age of 25), Rowland and other friend Sarah decide to re-enact a scene from all three’s favourite childhood film The Vikings and proceed to give their friend a Viking send off, casting him adrift in a boat set alight which proceeds to blow up with a ‘BOOM.’

From his hilarious rendition of body snatching from the chapel of rest before his friend becomes one with the earth, through to the genuine anguish he feels in the loss of his friend, Rowland’s expert storytelling can flip the mood from laugh out loud hilarity to sombre and reflective in a split second – leading the audience to experience a genuine emotional rollercoaster during the hour long set.

With simple and effective staging by director Daniel Goldman, this production is beautifully done and the true connotations of the story, albeit alluded to as the end not being the end, strike a chord with much of the audience.

If Team Viking is anything to go by, Rowland’s newest venture 100 Different Words For Love is a must see, even if just to see a storytelling master at his craft.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Harry Reid

Team Viking is the true story of narrator, James Rowland, giving one of his best friends a proper Viking burial after contracting a very rare type of heart cancer.

From the very start of the performance there’s a strong connection to the characters through Rowland’s way of telling a story. He does a brilliant job of bringing you into his life and making you feel like you are also his friend, you are talking to him and no one else. There are no other actors, which makes the whole story that much more human, it’s like a friend telling you a crazy story that happened to them.

The connection to the characters strengthens as the story progresses, with us following James into his spiral of depression. We can really see and understand the emotions that he was feeling at that time, and by the end of the production, it has you holding back tears, you really see how much James cared for his friend.

The incorporation of the song that Rowland wrote into the play is also very clever. Each time a section of the song was added, it reflects the emotions that James is feeling at that point in the story: with the happy melody at the start, giving off an innocent vibe, then with the vocal inclusion, the use of different tones of voice showed James’ emotions, and then the beat of the song being included when James was at his lowest point. At first, these musical transitions are a bit jarring and confusing, but by the end of the play the puzzle pieces connect and it makes sense.

The delivery is spot on. Rowland manages to nail every joke and strike a reaction from the audience whenever he wants, he speaks to the audience like real people, a trait that’s very admirable. Overall, Team Viking is a wonderful dive into this sentimental story in the life of James Rowland with great acting and delivery. Highly recommended – see it if it ever comes back.

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Personal response by Morven Little

On the days leading up to Stand By I was, admittedly, a little sceptical. The premise didn’t particularly spark any interest in me, and the topic isn’t something I tend to gravitate towards, but I tried to remain open-minded. It may not have been a show that I would have necessarily chosen to see, but nevertheless, I wasn’t entirely disinterested; the inclusion of the ear pieces was intriguing, and I was very excited to discover how the stage would be set up. And, ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised.

At first, I struggled a little to get into it, but soon, I actually found myself quite enjoying it. The earpieces, which I had anticipated as being slightly distracting, were an extremely clever addition and enhanced the overall performance. The technology worked wonders in making me feel that I was part of the narrative, and allowed me to connect with the police officers very easily. I especially enjoyed the use of the earpieces at the beginning of the show: as the lights dimmed, a drum beat began playing through the earpieces, and was soon joined by additional instruments playing through the theatre sound system. This, in my opinion, was an excellent touch, and made the audience pay attention to their earpieces from the very beginning.

I also adored the minimalistic way in which the show was presented. By having only four characters and little interaction with the world outside the van (besides transmissions over the earpieces and few sound effects), writer Adam McNamara created a very insular environment. At points in the show, some of the officers would leave the van, but the audience never left with them – we were restricted to the confines of the van. This was effective for a multitude of reasons: it gave those watching an impression of the lack of information about the situation the officers were receiving, allowed the show to be much more character-driven, and gave the audience ample time to connect and get to know the characters – a necessary part of any drama piece. It was like a dramatic monologue with more than one narrator; a simple set up, but with small details throughout in order to give an insight to the absent world outside. My favourite example of this was the sound of raindrops hitting the roof of the van, so silent that I barely even registered it. And the writing itself was just as subtle. Details of each character’s personal lives were weaved into witty banter and smart, sharp dialogue. As the show progressed, you discovered more about their lives out of uniform and developed sympathy for them. I felt as though I knew the characters and found that I genuinely cared about what happened to them – testament to both brilliant performances from the actors and fabulous writing and direction.

Overall, I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Stand By. It was genuinely funny, believable, sharp and extremely clever, and has encouraged me to be more open to shows that I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to see.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Josh Brown

James Rowland stars in this joyous one-man performance reflecting his enjoyment, devastation, struggle with life and the biggest hurdle he has encountered as his best friend Tom is diagnosed with heart cancer and Tom has been given only 3 months to live. But Tom has one wish and that is to have a Viking Burial.

You will cry with laughter then the next minute sadness, as the astonishing acting from Rowland makes you feel so much in the space of so little time. He takes you from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. Rowland connects to his audience on a different level, as through his story you feel as if you’ve known him for years and he’s a close friend, in the theatre he creates a warm atmosphere and you just love him and support him through his struggles.

The comedy is sharp and witty and very natural and to the point. You feel as if you are great pals just having a laugh about something you really know you shouldn’t be laughing about. James’s balance of laughter and the depressing reality of life is phenomenal. This show is an absolute must see.

*****

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lillian Harle

Adam McNamara’s honest telling of policing in Scotland is witty and an honest representation of a life in blue. The audience are emerged in the performance from start to finish, wearing police earpieces with assorted situation reports being sounded. This only adds to the authenticity of the story. He portrays a somewhat mundane operation of four officers in a riot van waiting to be called into action to deal with a machete wielding maniac. The key word here is mundane. McNamara’s use of mundane topics lulls the audience into a false sense of security then smacks them with the brutal honesties of the simple dangers of being a police officer.

With Joe Douglas’ direction and Adam McNamara’s writing as well as performance, Stand By brings an authentic and fresh perspective on the Scottish police force. The audience are faced with four of Scotland’s finest: Chris (Adam McNamara), the sergeant in charge who is riddled with domestic problems; Rachel (Jamie Marie Leary), the straight talking and quick witted female officer; Davey (Andy Clark), the Dundee born and bred officer and Marty (Laurie Scott), an English transfer from London. The actors created a great chemistry between them, all by portraying realistic characters that the audience can relate to.

Natasha Jenkins uses a minimalistic set design in order not to take away from the witty and well written script. McNamara establishes the character’s personalities through the workaday conversation of the officers bored and waiting for orders. The writer creates a tense atmosphere through the use of the earpieces where orders are relayed in real-time to the audience.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lewis Cox

Team Viking by James Rowland is a beautiful, simplistic but oddly mesmerising production.

On first entering and realising this is a one man show, there’s a slight trepidation: how on earth would one man be able to entertain an audience for a full hour and 20 minutes? Where on earth was his set? Will we get bored? As soon as the show begins all these questions disappear as quickly as they appear.

Through the simplicity of the lights and staging there are no barriers between the audience and the story. With nothing to guide us except Rowland’s words and movements everything comes naturally with a warming, but also at times moving performance. This is especially refreshing to see as constant set changes or cluttered and busy sets often lead the audience to dart their eyes around to gain understanding as to where they are.

There’s laughter, hysterical at times, but there is an underlining sadness throughout which makes it truly special, something we can all relate too. Directly addressing the audience is a wonderful feature as we feel like an integral part of the story, clinging onto every word anticipating what is going to happen next in this bizarre tale.

The breaking up of the story into what could be almost called ‘chapters’ was effective. Rowland always leaving the audience hanging, anticipating what was to come, mainly thanks to the terrific acting which one minute could have you howling with laughter, or almost in tears.

The Viking hat in the background is a nice simple prop, sitting there constantly reminding us of the meaning and reason for this performance, it helps set the scene more than any fancy backdrop could.

On a negative note, at certain times things need to be explained, or introduced and then the story then rambles off at a tangent, leaving you wishing for the story to kick back into life again.

Overall Team Viking is a heart-warming and hilarious play with some fine acting, and though simplistic, it has the ability to conjure up many emotions. It is a performance that will stick with you well into the journey home.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ross Anderson

Team Viking is a one man show where James Rowland tells us a story about his best friend dying and Rowland his friends fulfilling his dying wish, to get a Viking send off. It was a great show with both comedy and sadness. The audience were in tears with laughter one moment then the next full of emotion.

FEATURE: Pyro thrills at Artem Special Effects

In this third photo blog from behind the scenes at Artem, Glasgow it’s time to bring on the wind, rain and fire, as well as the big bangs.

First up some smoke and wind effects:

Next some brave souls getting shot at:

The classic glass breaking:

WALL OF FIRE!

Time for the big bangs:

For anyone who hasn’t followed the first two photo blogs on Artem the Special Effects experts you can find them here and here.

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