Scenes for Survival, the ongoing digital project created by the National Theatre of Scotland, continues to entertain audiences with new weekly releases across BBC and National Theatre of Scotland online platforms.
The project is being delivered by the National Theatre of Scotland in association with BBC Scotland, Screen Scotland, BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine project, and Scotland’s leading theatre venues and companies, with support from Hopscotch Films, and sees a host of Scottish performers, writers, and directors creating short pieces of digital theatre remotely from their personal spaces of isolation, with films released online for audiences to enjoy for free.
The latest Scenes for Survival releases for the week of 03 August will include the first part of Out of the Woods, a hilarious and sinister new three-episode short starring Alan Cumming. Written by Johnny McKnight and directed by Andrew Panton, Out of the Woods stars Cumming as a father struggling to find his way through the woods on the way to pick up his daughter from her other dad, before his real intentions slowly become clear.
The short series was filmed entirely by Cumming in woodland near his home in the Catskills mountain range in New York State. The first episode will be released online at 9pm on Mon 03 August, while the following two episodes will be released on Mon 10 and Mon 17 August respectively. Out of the Woods is produced in association with Dundee Rep Theatre.
The other two Scenes for Survival releases for the week will include Alone Part 2 on Wed 05 Aug, a warm-hearted follow up to comedian Janey Godley’s original Scenes for Survival film Alone, and Dirlo – Am Fear Maireann / Dirlo – The Survivor on 07 Aug, a new Gaelic-language short from writer Iain Macrae.
Alone Part 2 reunites Godley and director Caitlin Skinner, and once again stars Godley as long-suffering housewife Betty, now freed from the influence of her controlling husband and able to reach out to her son Stephen, played by Jack Lowden, as the two are finally able to plan their futures. The piece was created following the overwhelming positive response to the first film, and has been partly inspired by audience feedback asking for a follow-up to Betty’s story.
Dirlo – Am Fear Maireann / Dirlo – The Survivor is a new short from writer Iain Macrae, directed by Liz Caruthers, and starring Daibhidh Walker as an isolated shepherd working on a remote Hebridean island who comes into conflict with his only companion. It is the first Scenes for Survival film performed entirely in Gaelic, and is produced in association with Theatre Gu Leòr.
BBC iPlayer releases and BBC Scotland broadcasts
Out of the Woods will also be one of the first Scenes for Survival shorts made available to audiences through the BBC iPlayer in August. The first episode will appear on the platform from 03 August alongside a selection of other pieces from the project, including exclusive Ian Rankin short Rebus: The Lockdown Blues, starring Brian Cox as the legendary Edinburgh cop; Janey Godley’s darkly-comic lockdown short Alone; and Joseph Knight, an extract from May Sumbwanyambe’s forthcoming play Enough of Him starring Patrick Martins and Emma King, based on the true story of Joseph Knight, an African man brought to Scotland as a slave in the 18th century who eventually sued for his freedom.
Other pieces appearing on the iPlayer later in August will include A Mug’s Game, a sobering reflection on the legacy of asbestos poisoning in the Glasgow shipyards featuring Jonathan Watson, taken from Frances Poet’s play Fibres; The Banshee, a haunting comedy short from writer/director Greg Hemphill performed by Julie Wilson Nimmo; and The Domestic, a powerful tribute to the kindness of hospital staff starring Kristi MacDonald and written by Uma Nada Rajah, who has herself been working as an NHS staff nurse during the outbreak.
Further selections of Scenes for Survival shorts will be made available on the iPlayer every week through August, with 25 in total appearing on the service. Full details will be announced at a later date.
Next month will also see a selection of Scenes for Survival releases broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel for the first time, with three standalone Scenes for Survival films set to be screened on the channel in the coming weeks:
Larchview, written by Rob Drummond and featuring Mark Bonnar as a fictional government adviser coming to terms with his own major breach of the lockdown rules when he secretly visited a care home; Fatbaws, written by Douglas Maxwell, and starring Peter Mullan in a surreal and comic drama about a man in conflict with his garden birds after he changes the food in their bird-feeder; and First Things, written by Val McDermid and starring Elaine C. Smith as a big-hearted DJ on Radio Scotia trying to keep everyone’s spirits up during lockdown.
A three-part compilation of selected films from the project will also be broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel in August. Full details for these broadcasts will be announced.
The Longest Summer– single release
Written by Noisemaker (Scott Gilmour & Claire McKenzie) and directed by Jemima Levick, The Longest Summer sees Richard Rankin star in a lyrical, life-affirming musical journey through childhood and hardship during the current crisis, celebrating the beautiful things that the world still has to offer.
The film was first released online on Monday 27 July. Now the uplifting central song in the short film, sung by Rankin, is to be released as a standalone single. The track will be available through all major digital music distribution outlets from Tuesday 04 August.
All proceeds from the single will be donated to the Scenes for Survival Hardship Fund, which has been set up to support artists and those in the theatre industry who have been hardest hit financially by the current crisis.
Richard Rankin said:
“It’s been a privilege to work on The Longest Summer as part of Scenes for Survival with the wonderful creative team of Noisemaker and director Jemima Levick, and I’m thrilled that the film and song have resonated with so many people already. The song release is a brilliant way to continue that connection, and a great opportunity to raise some cash for a vitally important cause.“
The Scenes for Survival Hardship Fund is a fundraising campaign launched by the National Theatre of Scotland in association with the Federation of Scottish Theatre, the McGlashan Charitable Trust and leading Scottish Theatre organisations, to raise money for those in the sector who have been hardest hit financially and are experiencing drastic economic and emotional hardship.
All donations to this fund will go directly to provide support for those most impacted within Scotland, be they actors, writers, creatives, musicians, technicians or any others within our industry.
A sector-wide call out with information and details of how to apply for support from the SFS Hardship Fund will be launched in August 2020. The Federation of Scottish Theatre and the McGlashan Charitable Trust will ensure equitable distribution of the money raised.
She’s been dubbed the ‘godmother of Scottish comedy’ and numbers Billy Connolly among her fans. Now, Janey Godley is set to spread her appeal across the nation as this quintessentially Glaswegian comic takes the Soup Pot Tour over the border and down south. “There will be a different demographic politically at these shows, but remember Nicola Sturgeon gets it in the neck from me as well. I will have to speak slower and make sure that it’s not all about just hating the Tories, though that will be difficult. But by and large, people who come to stand-up are open-minded people, they tend not to be died-in-the-wool Brexiteers who hate the Scottish.”
This tour has Janey wielding a variety of talents, as she delivers the kind of forthright stand-up which has earned her a strong reputation on the comedy circuit and a loyal band of followers. But she will also be displaying her skills at improv, as she stands by a screen and narrates adlibbed voiceovers of people (many of whom are today’s crop of politicians), giving them a heavy Scottish accent and inventing a story, many of which involve making soup for the community.
“The soup pot is very universal: if you’re in Australia, America, Brazil, France Germany or Alaska, and someone dies or gets married, people will make soup. The soup pot is the hub of the community. When somebody died near us when I was a kid, somebody would make the big soup pot so all the visitors had something warm to drink and eat. It’s part of us all being in it together. Of course, that was before people discovered they were gluten free and worried about being allergic to lentils.”
Janey first discovered that she could develop this new strand of her career on the night of the Scottish Independence vote in 2014. “I first did the voiceovers live at the Wild Cabaret club in Glasgow where the big screens were up. When the news came through and it was all looking a bit bleak, we turned the volume down and I started talking over the top of people. The audience loved it and I realised this was something I could do really well.”
She then poked fun online at the likes of Theresa May, Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon, replacing their talk of policy and elections with chat about big Isa and her soup pots. A recent piece she did on Kim Kardashian (largely mocking her for walking backwards) also went down spectacularly well, while clips of supermodels, Pathé newsreels and Fanny Craddock (the original celebrity chef) are given the Godley treatment. “I started off doing it for me, really. I liked the fact that I could give those politicians a whole new background persona and the idea that they might have these ordinary conversations; I love the idea of that normalcy which cuts through all that bulls**t. The ones that are the hardest to do are of Katie Hopkins, because the audience just boo like they’re at a pantomime.”
Since the voiceovers took off, an unusual trend started which reminded Janey of the halcyon days of Spitting Image when politicians would tune in avidly on a Sunday night, desperate to see if they had been captured in wax and caricatured in song. “MPs will say ‘are you going to do me?’ I’d like to do some international ones; I do Trump but I want to do Australian and Canadian politicians. There’s a lot of fodder to go on.”
When she started performing comedy in the mid-90s, there were very few female acts kicking about, but Janey Godley has now become a standard bearer in Scotland for young women who might fancy a career in stand-up. “I did Have I Got News For You and I was the first working-class Scottish female comic to do that: the first and last. There are girls from Glasgow who saw comedy and it would be Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle, so they all thought ‘that’s not our job, that’s for Scottish men’. But when they see me and they see someone like Fern Brady, they think ‘yeah, that’s also a woman’s job.’”
Recently, Janey has ramped up her acting CV, appearing in Wild Rose (staring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo) about a young woman trying to make her way in the world of Country music, and has written and directed a short film entitled The Last Mermaid. She’s also had a one-woman play run Off-Broadway, and will be on TV screens soon playing the lawyer of Martin Compston’s character in Traces, a crime drama from an original idea by Val McDermid.
But for now, she’s enjoying making people laugh all over the country with both her no-holds barred stand-up and the unique nature of these new voiceovers. “The most important thing is that this has never been done before, no other comic in the world is doing this. I’ve been doing stand-up for over 20 years but it took a Tory called Theresa to make me famous.” Mrs May might now be virtually out of the public eye, but the moment has surely arrived for Janey Godley to take centre stage.
Contributed by Brian Donaldson
Images: Murdo Macleod