Tag Archives: Becky Minto

NEWS: Award-winning Grid Iron Theatre Company at work on a new show to premiere this August

Experts in site specific and promenade theatre, Edinburgh-based Grid Iron Theatre Company hopes to bring a world premiere of Doppler to audiences next month. With very limited audience numbers of up to 20 people, this outdoor, socially distant show would have a limited run starting on or after 24 August with venue and exact dates still to be confirmed.

Judith Doherty, Chief Executive and Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron Theatre Company said: “We are very cautiously excited about the possibility of bringing Doppler to Edinburgh audiences this August. We have been developing the show for over a year now and had hoped to bring it to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Doppler was always meant to be an outdoor show and with our experience of producing shows in unusual spaces, we remain hopeful that we will be able to proceed with our plans. We are currently awaiting confirmation of our venue and then we can proceed with securing the required licensing.

“Having said that, we acknowledge the situation is developing fast and we might need to adapt quickly. We understand that 24 August, the date announced by the Scottish Government today as potentially the first day of live outdoor performances being allowed back in Scotland, is an indicative date which will be reviewed in 3 weeks.

“Safety and comfort of our audiences and team are always our top priority and we are simultaneously working on plans for a non-live sharing of Doppler.”

Adapted and directed by Ben Harrison, produced by Judith Doherty, with dramaturgy by Eszter Marsalko and translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, Doppler is an adaptation of a satirical novel by a Norwegian writer Erlend Loe. It focuses on Doppler, a man who, following the death of his father, decides to abandon his family and move to the forest on the outskirts of Oslo. He is determined to live a life as far removed from his previous as possible but struggles to maintain his isolation as his existence garners a lot of unwanted attention.

Ben Harrison, Adaptor, Director and Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron said: “Doppler has been planned for a couple of years but takes on new and unexpected resonances in the context of the pandemic. The central character is jolted out of his comfortable Norwegian existence by a bicycle accident and determines to live an isolated life in the forest away from his family and social circle.

“Determined to live a deliberately simple existence, a life fused with the rhythm of the forest, he slows everything right down. Through his comical one-sided dialogue with an orphaned elk calf that he adopts, muses on life, the excesses of capitalism, fathers and sons and the footprint we leave on the world. As the months move slowly by however, his alternative lifestyle of bartering and hunter-gathering attracts some unwanted attention, and he finds being alone not nearly as simple and straightforward as he had hoped.”

Known for the role of Lesley in Outlander, Keith Fleming is Doppler with Grid Iron-regulars Itxaso Moreno and Sean Hay portraying all the remaining characters. The Company is also working with several talented freelancers, including Fergus Dunnet who is producing the puppets for the show, David Pollock on music and foley and Becky Minto who is responsible for design.

Following weeks of Zoom meetings, the Company has now begun outdoor rehearsals strictly following all the safety measures. These include not only face masks, hand sanitizing and social distancing but also taking people’s temperature at home and then again in the outdoor rehearsal space, props being handled by only one person, introduction of a clean objects area after they are sanitized and shorter rehearsal days to avoid having to take meal breaks. The Company is also making it possible for people not to have to travel to work by public transport unless they are absolutely comfortable to do so and if yes, only outwith peak times.

The very strict health and safety regulations also impact on the design of the show with rigging and lighting designed to be handled by only one person at all times and actors wearing their own clothes and bringing some of the props from home.

Grid Iron Theatre Company has decades of experience of producing theatre in non-theatre, often outdoor spaces and is widely recognised as experts in audience management. Its past productions include Roam presented at the Edinburgh Airport, Decky Does Bronco in parks and play areas across the UK and Ireland, Dr Stirlingshire’s Discovery at the Edinburgh Zoo and Crude, produced at a huge former oil-rig manufacturing shed in the Port of Dundee.

The Company is closely following the Scottish Government’s guidelines and is in touch with local authorities, and remains hopeful the staging of Doppler late in August will be possible. It recognises however that the current landscape is uncertain and everchanging and as such, is preparing for the eventuality that the live outdoor show will not be able to proceed. If that happens, Doppler will be shared with audiences digitally as a filmed performance.

#DopplerShow

Facebook and Twitter: @GridIronTheatre

Images: Delilah Rose Niel

REVIEW: The Sunshine Ghost – Platform, Glasgow

Loosely based on the 1935 Rene Clair film, The Ghost Goes West, The Sunshine Ghost from Richard Ferguson (the pen name of conductor and RCS guest lecturer Richard Lewis) and Andy Cannon, (founder of Wee Stories Theatre for Children) is a work in progress, a co-production between Scottish Theatre Producers and Edinburgh’s Festival and King’s Theatres. The cast of six developing the work as they tour Scotland.

It’s 1958 and love-struck US billionaire, Glen Duval buys a Scottish castle and ships it across the Atlantic for his fiancée, Hollywood astrologer Astrobeth, only to discover that the castle’s ghost refuses to be parted from his ancestral home. Mayhem ensues between Ranald the ghost, Duval’s archaeologist daughter and her soon-to-be-step-mother, including curses, ship-wrecks, a séance, a swipe at Donald Trump, and a Scottish history lesson on Bonnie Prince Charlie, via Prestonpans to the battle of Culloden!

While a work in progress, it runs at a very fully formed two and a half hours. The problem is there are just too many songs, many of them merely filler. There are no costume or set changes to cover and a fair number of them fail to advance the plot in any way. That’s not to say that they are unpleasant or unentertaining, they’re not. Most are evocative of those black and white Saturday afternoon movie musicals of the 40s and 50s, a bit cha-cha-cha and samba-like, there even seems to be a new genre invented – 1950s rap! There’s also an under the sea parody with some fabulously funny lyrics. We could however be doing with a few less songs, a greater variety of musical styles and the story moving at a faster pace.

There’s huge scope for comedy in the story and with the characters. There are some great comedic moments, especially when pianist (and composer) Richard Ferguson gets his chance to shine as the Library of Congress librarian – with comic timing like that he’s woefully underused behind the piano. It’s great fun as it is but the whole thing would be elevated if it tipped even further towards comedy.

The performances are universally solid and the set and props as they are – are cleverly utilised. It’s easy to see how this could be scaled up to a full-blown touring musical – with the rolling hills of Scotland and the castle looming in the moonlight, it could be a tartan shortbread tin of nostalgia.

With shades of The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Blithe Spirit, this has HUGE potential: it just needs a few less songs, more musical variety and more comedy and it could easily be a winner.

Production images: Eoin Carey