Category Archives: NEWS

WHAT’S ON: FEATHER PRODUCTIONS in association with the BEACON ARTS CENTRE present the world premiere of LENA by Tim Whitnall

1999. LENA ZAVARONI (born in Greenock in 1963) has sung for presidents and royalty, topped the bill at the London Palladium, and become the youngest artist ever to have had a Top Ten album. But now, the fallen child star is fighting for her future – and her life. Waiting anxiously in a Cardiff hospital, her father VICTOR wonders how fate and fortune have conspired against him and his ‘wee lassie wi’ the pipes o’ Shirley Bassey’. Surrounded by ghosts he must endure a white-knuckle ride through the past; an ordinary man with one last chance to save his extraordinary daughter. 
 
Written by BAFTA and OLIVIER award-winner TIM WHITNALL (MorecambeThe Best Possible Taste) and directed by LESLIE FINLAY (The MisanthropeThe Reader), this dynamic new work also features a wealth of classic songs including Ma! Hes Making Eyes At MeRoses and Rainbows, and (Youve Got) Personality. 
 
LENA stars ERIN ARMSTRONG (Shetland/10 Rillington Place), ALAN MCHUGH (Scot Squad/The Limmy Show), JULIE COOMBE (River City/Hope Springs) as Hilda Zavaroni, HELEN LOGAN (River City/A Mugs Game), JULIE COOMBE and features the incredible JON CULSHAW (Dead Ringers/ The Impressionist Show) as TV’s original “Mr. Starmaker”, Hughie Green.
 
Other creatives include Musical Director/Arranger: MATTHEW BROWN and Set and Costume Designer: BECKY MINTO
 
Anna MurphyProducerFeather Productions said: “We are thrilled to be working in a co-producing partnership with the Beacon Arts Centre on this new important play with music, about Scottish singing sensation Lena Zavaroni. It is a privilege to work with the such a talented cast and crew and to be able to bring live theatre back to audiences with the support from Creative Scotland.”
 
LENA will premiere at the Beacon Arts Centre from 16 – 19 March before touring in 2023. 

NEWS: Scottish Ballet will be completing their tour of The Nutcracker in Inverness

Following today’s Scottish Government announcement that there will be no further extension to current event restrictions, Scottish Ballet will be completing their tour of The Nutcracker to Inverness (Eden Court 26-29 Jan), after the Glasgow and Aberdeen runs were cancelled. The tour will then move on to Newcastle and Belfast in February. The Company of dancers have been rehearsing The Nutcracker and future productions and maintaining fitness levels at their headquarters in Glasgow during the restrictions.

 

NEWS: FROM THE QUEEN VIC TO THE QUEEN OF NARNIA SAMANTHA WOMACK TO PLAY THE WHITE WITCH IN THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE

THEATRE ROYAL, GLASGOW

TUESDAY 1 – SATURDAY 5 MARCH 2022

Theatre Royal, Glasgow has announced that TV and theatre star Samantha Womack will appear at the venue next year in a new stage adaptation of C.S Lewis’ beloved classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

 Samantha Womack, who known for her role as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, takes on the role of The White Witch when the show runs at the Hope Street venue from Tuesday 1 until Saturday 5 March 2022  as part of a UK tour, which will also visit Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe broke box office records upon opening at the Leeds Playhouse and went on to sell out shows and receive critical acclaim at the Bridge Theatre in London in 2019.

The show tells the story of Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter who embark on a magical journey through the wardrobe into the enchanted kingdom of Narnia. Waving goodbye to wartime Britain, they adventure the frozen, faraway land where they meet a faun, talking beavers, and of course noble king of Narnia, Aslan and the coldest, most evil White Witch.

Samantha Womack returns to the theatre after her recent success playing the lead role in the sold-out production of The Girl on the Train in the West End and on tour.  Sam’s past theatre roles include the Tony award-winning production of South Pacific in which she starred alongside Patrick Swayze, Guys and Dolls at London’s Piccadilly Theatre (directed by Michael Grandage) and playing Emma in an award-winning production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal (directed by Sir Peter Hall). Her varied work on television has seen Samantha moving from comedy to drama with the cult success of BBC’s Game On and Babes in the Wood to ITV’s gritty crime drama Liverpool 1Imogen’s Face and Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders.  Films include playing the unhinged mother of Eggsy in The Kingsman franchise sharing the screen with Colin Firth and Samuel L Jackson and playing Hazel in Jon Godbers  Up ‘n Under.

She said“Having been a huge fan of C S Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for as long as I can remember, I am thrilled to be playing The White Witch. The book has always been a magical read and having watched incredible actors interpret this role in the past, I am excited to see what she holds for me. This production is so beautifully conceived with thrilling sets and costumes and an amazingly talented cast and creative team. I can’t wait to seduce, plot and terrify Narnia into a permanent winter.”

James Haworth, Theatre Director at Theatre Royal, Glasgow, said: “What a treat to it is to welcome the magical land of Narnia to our stage as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe arrives for what will be a fabulous run.”

Joining Samantha in the cast are: Ammar Duffus (Peter Pevensie), Shaka Kalokoh (Edmund Pevensie), Robyn Sinclair (Susan Pevensie) and Karise Yansen (Lucy Pevensie).   Aslan is played by Chris Jared, Mr Tumnus by Jez Unwin, Mr Beaver by Sam Buttery and Maugrim by Michael Ahomka-Lindsay.  They are joined by Oliver Bingham (Mr Brinkworth, March Hare and Aslan Puppeteer), Scott Brooks (Mr Pope, Fox Trot, Associate Music Captain), Rachel Dawson (Miss Chutney, Blue Badger and Spirit of the Moon), Oliver Grant (Mr Wilson, Schrodinger, Red Squirrel and Aslan Puppeteer), Matthew James Hinchliffe (Mr Marsden, Mauve Mole), Tash Holway (on stage Swing, Dance Captain), Shaun McCourt (Mr Granville, Jack Rabbit, Aslan Puppeteer), Sophie Naglik (on stage Swing) Kate Parr (Miss Gumley-Warmley and Phoenix), Anthony Starr (on stage Swing), Christina Tedders (Mrs Beaver), Brad Veitch (on stage Swing). Johnson Willis (Professor Kirk, Father Christmas, Wise Owl and White Mouse) and Grace Wylde (Mrs Pevensie, Robin and Falcon)

The tour will be directed by Michael Fentiman, based on the original production by Sally Cookson with original Set and Costume design by Rae Smith.  Michael’s previous productions include the Olivier Award-nominated Amélie (Watermill Theatre/The Other Palace/UK Tour and currently running in the West End), The Windsors: Endgame (also running in the West End), The Importance of Being Earnest (Vaudeville Theatre), the 50th anniversary production of Joe Orton’s Loot (Park Theatre/Watermill Theatre), Titus Andronicus and Ahasverus (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Taming of the Shrew (Sherman Theatre/Tron Theatre) and, as director and writer, CinderELLA (Nuffield Southampton) and The Last Days of Anne Boleyn (Tower of London).

Joining Michael Fentiman on the creative team are Tour Set and Costume Designer Tom Paris, Dramaturg Adam Peck, Composer Benji Bower with additional composition by Music Supervisor Barnaby Race, Choreographer Shannelle ‘Tali’ Fergus, Lighting Designer Jack Knowles, Sound Designers Ian Dickinson and Gareth Tucker for Autograph, Puppetry Director Toby Olié, Puppetry Designer Max Humphries, Aerial Director Gwen Hales, Illusionist Chris Fisher, Music Director Toby Higgins, Movement Consultant Dan Canham, Casting Director Will Burton, Fight Director Jonathan Holby, Costume Supervisor Joanna Coe, Wigs and Make Up Supervisor Susanna Peretz, Props Supervisor Lizzie Frankl, and Associate Director James Callàs Ball.

Image: Seamus Ryan

NEWS: The Glee Club Go Bananas to Mark First Anniversary

The Glee Club Glasgow served up a slice of comedy gold last night at their eagerly awaited first birthday bash. An edible pair of The Big Yin’s ‘big banana boots’ took centre stage and proved to be the icing on the cake at the popular comedy club’s celebratory show.

Guests were able ‘to fill their boots’ with slices of the eye catching life-size birthday cake which was created by award-winning Scottish cake designer 3D cakes. Handcrafted from toffee sponge and airbrushed to depict detail, the comedy cake was the brainchild of The Glee team who voted Billy Connelly’s famous fruity booties their favourite Scottish comedy icon.

A stellar line-up of Scottish comics entertained the crowd throughout the evening, including the award winning Mark Nelson, the hilarious Christopher KC and Ashley Storrie and up and coming stars Christopher Macarthur-Boyd and Shona Lawson . Freshly made food, drinks and a lively after party ensured that a fun-filled evening was had by all to mark the one year milestone.

Since opening its doors in early 2019, The Glee Club Glasgow has welcomed a raft of top comedians to its stage, including Sean Lock, Joel Dommett, Larry Dean, Janey Godley, Suzi Ruffell, Tom Stade, Fern Brady, Rosie Jones, Gary Meikle and Des Clarke. In addition to its popular weekend shows, the club has hosted a series of sell-out events such as book tours, drag shows and a hugely successful series of Christmas and Hogmanay comedy nights.

To further fly the flag for Glasgow’s thriving creative and entertainment industries, The Glee Club partnered with leading Scottish festivals throughout the year to deliver a series of unmissable events including Celtic Connections, Glasgow Film Festival and Glasgow Comedy Festival.

The Glee Founder Mark Tughan commented: “Billy Connelly has some pretty big boots to fill in terms of Scottish comedy, so what better way to celebrate our first year in the city than by paying tribute to him with our wonderfully banana’s cake.

We opened the club to showcase and support stand-up comedy in the city and we are thrilled that our first year has been such a success. Glaswegians are known for their humour, so the top notch acts that the club has attracted and sold out shows really is testament to this. Our team is incredibly excited to bring more must-see shows to the city and fly the flag for Scottish comedy’”.

The Glee Club Glasgow’s 400 seater interior, is theatre-style with great views to the round Glee stage, plus excellent lighting, acoustics and atmosphere. An extensive menu of delicious freshly made food and a great quality drinks offering enables guests to enjoy both an evening of entertainment and dining experience under one roof.

Prices: Friday night tickets £11 / students £8 / ticket + food £20, Saturday night tickets £17 / students £8 / ticket + pizza + drink £27

The Glee Club box office: 0871 472 0400 / info@glee.co.uk

www.glee.co.uk

www.facebook.com/gleeglasgow, www.twitter.com/GleeClubGlasgow

www.instagram.com/gleeclubglasgow

NEWS: STAR OF STAGE AND SCREEN, AND NEW PACE PATRON, JAMES MCARDLE REVEALS LOCATION OF SCOTLAND’S FIRST DEDICATED YOUNG PEOPLE’S THEATRE

PACE Theatre Company is delighted to announce actor James McArdle as its first patron. James is a former PACE Youth Theatre member and since graduating from RADA in 2010 he has garnered a string of impressive credits including title roles in James I, Platonov and Peter Gynt at the National Theatre, a Broadway transfer of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and as the Earl of Moray in the 2019 feature film Mary Queen of Scots.

This announcement comes as the company reveals the location of the building which is to be transformed into a new community theatre space, EXCHANGE, dedicated to promoting and developing theatre for children, young people and families; as well as promoting participation by young people through performance and creative learning opportunities.

The vacant building on Old Sneddon St in Paisley, was most recently the site of a former nightclub (Mannequins) but was built as the New Templar Hall in 1932 and has been variously used as a dance hall, cinema and telephone exchange in its lifetime.
The building will provide a home venue for PACE’s own performances (almost 200 annually) as well as hosting a programme of professional touring productions, and offering an alternative venue for Renfrewshire’s thriving community performance scene. It’s planned flexible-use spaces will also allow for a host of creative learning opportunities.

Jenni Mason, Artistic Director of PACE, said:
“We’re thrilled that James has accepted our invitation to become a patron for PACE. He has always been incredibly supportive of our work and generous with his time when it comes to our young people, and we know that his achievements to date are an inspiration to many of our young people.

“With the development of Exchange, our aim is to create a welcoming space for children, young people and families – from igniting a passion for theatre and performance in the very young, right through to supporting and nurturing emerging artists at the start of their careers.”

Speaking today, James McArdle said:

“I’ll always be grateful to PACE for the start that they gave me on my journey to becoming an actor, not just the skills I learnt when acting but how to have confidence in myself and hold my own. It is a privilege to be able support them in their ambitions.

“I have experienced first-hand that theatre has the power to be lifechanging and already, it’s clear that through this building they will be able to create even more opportunities for young people and their families.

“It’s still the happiest time of my life, I felt like I had a voice and was listened to at PACE even though I was young. It taught me I had value and worth which has been a vital part in becoming an actor but also just in growing up.”

The proposed model for the building model is inspired by young people focused buildings in England such as Unicorn Theatre, Polka Theatre, Chickenshed and Half Moon Theatre in London, Hullabaloo in Darlington, Contact in Manchester and Greenwich Young People’s Theatre.
Renfrewshire Council has already pledged an award of £300k from Renfrewshire’s £1.46m share of the Scottish Government’s £50m Town Centre Capital Fund – aimed at bringing vacant buildings back into use, improving infrastructure and supporting community-led regeneration.

Cllr Lisa-Marie Hughes, of Renfrewshire Council, added: “PACE Youth Theatre have been at the heart of the local area for more than three decades – in that time many thousands of young people’s lives having been enriched by that experience, and this new venue will open up those benefits to the next generation too.

“Of course, there is a long list of those young people for whom time spent at PACE was their springboard to stardom in the world of TV, film or theatre – and it’s great to see James McArdle coming back to where it all started for him to be part of this announcement today.

“Renfrewshire Council is putting culture at the heart of our plans to help transform the area’s fortunes, through the Future Paisley programme – which includes major investment in our own cultural venues such as Paisley Museum and Town Hall, as well as funding to help local creative groups like PACE grow.

“So we are delighted to have been able to make available funding, which will help PACE bring a long-term vacant building back into use and bring new footfall and vibrancy to the town centre.”
The award is a the first committed towards the project’s capital development total, expected to be in the region of £2.4 million, and PACE is actively seeking funding from sources to achieve this. Full details of the new building and ways to support the campaign can be found at www.exchangetheatre.org<http://www.exchangetheatre.org> .

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

NEWS: War Horse’s Joey visits Glasgow before its run at the SEC Armadillo

The National Theatre’s acclaimed production of War Horse, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo arrives at The SEC Armadillo from 15 January – 2 February 2019 as part of a national tour.

Joey, the life-size equine puppet from War Horse made a special early appearance in Glasgow next to The Duke of Wellington Statue last week as well as his home for January – The SEC Armadillo. The event also included a talk about the history of the show from War Horse’s Assistant Puppetry Director, Matthew Forbes.

 

The puppeteers operating Joey in Glasgow are: Gareth Aled (Head), Michael Taibi (Heart) and Antony Antunes (Hind).

NEWS: Variety stars to shine at the Festival Theatre this October

Marie Duthie, June Don Murray and Doreen Leighton-Ward are three women from the golden age of Variety.  Aged 94, 90 and 85 respectfully, they are all still dancing. Brought together by director and choreographer Janice Parker these consummate dancers are guaranteed to both awe and entertain.

In early 2016 Janice was approached by the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh to contribute to their engagement programme.  Interested in the idea of authorship, agency and the legacy of older performers in today’s dance world, she put out a call looking for dancers from the Variety era who had at one time or another performed on the stage of The Empire, now Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.

Marie Duthie (nee Pyper) was born in 1923 and trained in Edinburgh. She first danced publicly as a toddler at her father’s amateur concert parties where she met her dance teacher Constance Gabrielle. By 1930 she was also training in ballet, tap and acrobatics with another Edinburgh teacher, Marjorie Middleton. In 1932, at the age of 9, Marie performed the dying swan solo and was noted by Edinburgh’s Evening Dispatch newspaper who said, “memories of Pavlova are brought to mind”. By 1940 she toured the country with The Ganjou Brothers and Juanita. Acrobatics was her speciality and in 1942 she became one half of The Raymond Sisters, extensively touring the UK on the renowned Moss Empire Circuit with her double act, which ended with them in mini kilts singing and tap dancing to Macphersin’ is Rehearsin’ to Swing.

Janice Parker Project – Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Marie  herself says: “I’ve been dancing from the word go. My mother used to say whenever there was any music on I was twitching and moving, always dancing and doing my own version. I feel so at home the minute I put my tap shoes on”.

June Don Murray was born in 1927 into a theatrical family in Scarborough, the daughter of performer and theatre manager Roy Don Parker and dancer Phyllis Ward and grand-daughter of renowned Variety performer, Happy Tom Parker. The family moved to Edinburgh when June was three and her father became manager of the Palladium Theatre. June began her formal training at Madame Ada’s dance school and went on to perform across Scotland and the UK with the Adaline Calder Girls, the Hamish Turner Dancers and then with the Moxon Girls. In 1955 June became the assistant to Australian illusionist The Great Levante, taking part in disappearing acts, bullet tricks and was regularly fired out of a canon.

June says: “Oh, it’s a laugh a minute, we love it, but nobody knows what goes into making a show, the time it takes, how hard we work, the precision”

Doreen Leighton-Ward was born in 1931 in Edinburgh and began her dance training in Madame Ada’s Dance School in Picardy Place Edinburgh as one of the Calderettes. At the age of 15 she becomes a Calder girl and toured in pantomime across the country before becoming head girl with The Hamish Turner Troupe. In 1953 Doreen attended an Equity meeting, initiated a strike, and successfully challenged and changed the working pay of dancers in Variety theatre. She appears as an unnamed mystery woman in a photograph of that meeting in The Scotsman. Doreen went on to dance in musical theatre and to appear in many TV dramas. She was recently choreographer for The Last Post, directed by Susan Worsfold as part of the Made In Scotland Showcase 2017.

Doreen says ‘’Ours was a small piece of a large jigsaw from which other dance styles evolved. I’ve a renewed sense of worth in the work we did 65 years ago. This is exciting, heady stuff.”

Director Janice Parker commented: “These women have never stopped dancing and continue to transmit their love of the art form and for the act of dancing. They have so much knowledge, skill and passion. True forces of nature. For a year now we have been working together a day a week collecting, gathering, exchanging and dancing. We have two young dancers in their 20s in the company, Katie Miller and Daisy Douglas, who are learning choreography and technique from Marie, June and Doreen. They are also learning about the life of these women and its relevance and contribution to dance now.

We are three generations of dancing. I turn 60 this year and long to give agency, authorship and relevance to older women dancing, to their continuing possibilities and to the stories our bodies tell.

There is so much to share. At the peak of their careers Variety dancers were in the main unnamed.  Some weeks they were doing 13 shows a week and travelling to the next venue with their costumes, sheet music, and the occasional dog and kangaroo. And all on their day ‘off’!” An Audience With… is a way of giving voice and recognition and a means to share the energy and vivacity of these dancers.”

The live events take place, aptly, in the Festival Theatre’s Empire Rooms. Structured loosely around a guided tour. An Audience With… is a live and virtual experience with six dancers, from three generations who share their dancing lives, past, present and future.

Marie, June and Doreen say: “We dance. We talk about dance. We talk about the profession then and the profession now. We talk about ourselves. We’ve danced in the studio, the dressing rooms, in the theatre bar, in the foyer and back on the main stage Janice, Katie and Daisy are learning to tap dance. We do the five positions of ballet. We work on portable tap mats and sometimes ballet barres. We experiment with seated dance, and a bit of creative contemporary. We teach class. We talk about dance not just as the mastery of steps but also as the ‘feeling’ of movement, swinging, hanging loose and feeling the music. We know the importance of rehearsal and repetition. We choreograph. And we think about what it means to be an older dancer, what it feels like to not be able to do what you once could and did do, and what it means to do it differently.”

Paul Hudson, Forget Me Not Co-ordinator says: “To actually have people in-residence in the building has brought our history and our stories alive and gives perspective on what we are doing now. The staff love watching these women dance and hearing about their time on the Empire stage.”

In 2018, An Audience With… will also produce a book and a film, and the dancers will continue meeting weekly. They are also interested in meeting other dancers from that era.

An Audience with… will be at the Empire Rooms in the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh on Saturday 21, Thursday 26 and Saturday 28 October 2017  from 3pm to 4.30pm.

The venue is wheelchair accessible and guide dogs are welcome.

Images: Greg Macvean 

NEWS: Glasgow Theatre Blog in Feedspots’ Top 30 Theatre Blogs on the planet!

Some nice news from 2016 for a change. The blog has been placed in Feedspot’s annual Top Theatre Blogs on the Planet at no.14.

Here’s how they measure it:

The Best Theatre blogs are chosen from thousands of top Theatre blogs in our index using search and social metrics.

These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review.

From the team at Feedspot:

“CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Theatre Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Theatre blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this”.

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See more here

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