Tag Archives: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland


Powerhouse performances, dynamic drama and bold and experimental new works … it’s curtain up on a new season of unmissable online theatre from the brightest new talent in Scotland.

Actors and performance-makers at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) bring energy and intensity to six new productions that kick off the summer season at the nation’s conservatoire, one of the world’s top three destinations for performing arts education.

Students from the School of Drama will take the joy of theatre into homes across the globe, giving audiences an opportunity to see this next generation of artists who are continuing to create exciting and vital new work throughout the Covid pandemic. It’s also a chance to watch graduating students take their final bow at RCS before they enter the professional world.

Two festivals and four dramas will stream on RCS at Home, the digital channel launched in response to the pandemic to spread joy, combat isolation and creatively connect the RCS community.

Propel Festival: 1 – 11 June, BA Contemporary Performance Practice

This digital festival of performance features live streams, artist talks and recorded pieces from all four-year groups. It includes:

  • Propel On-Site: documentation of a series of twelve site-responsive, practice-research explorations of performance writing made over six visits to Jupiter Artland by third-year students alongside three artworks made in alternative locations.
  • Artists talks including Art in Prisons (BSL interpreted) with Maria J. Monteiro, Jack MacMillan, Indra Wilson and Holly Worton who will discuss the concept of time in prisons, how families connect with incarcerated family members, imprisoned mothers, and the effect on their children and sexual and reproductive rights in prison.
  • Where the Heart Is by Rachel Mclean is a short audio piece that invites audiences to reimagine their sense of home. Rachel takes on the role of the narrator to guide between two locations: Henderson Street, where she grew up, and the place of the listener, to explore what home is and what home feels like.
  • Aliena/Or One That Can Move Freely is a choreographic adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It streamed live from RCS. Five performers embody a place between human and animal, attempting to expose both their individual and collective relationships to freedom. Director Althea Young, stage manager Coral Nelson and performers Claire Province, Dale Thrupp, Jessica Wagg, Romi Sarfaty and Hope Kennedy.

Bad Roads: 7 – 14 June, BA Acting

Third and final-year actors, who will graduate this summer, present Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s Bad Roads in an English language translation by Sasha Dugdale. It’s a play about life in war-torn Ukraine, focusing in particular on the war’s impact on women. In six scenes it explore loss, desire, fear and fighting. Warning: this play contains scenes of physical and sexual violence.

On the Verge Festival: 10 – 11 June, BA Acting

The culmination of second-year students’ exploration of new approaches to theatre-making and new writing, providing them with the tools and resilience that will see them throughout their careers as creative artists. Many projects in this festival were originally conceived as pieces of theatre and have been reimagined as experimental short films or audio plays with a visual element. Here, actors find their place both in front and behind the camera.

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found: 14 – 21 June, BA Acting

Third and final-year actors present this tale of a young marketing executive who turns to pills, drink and finally a new identity in his search for meaning in life. Punctuated by visions of a pathologist who claims he is already dead, he sets out on a whirlwind journey through a harsh world where moments of kindness are rare and the meaning of existence is called into question.

Perkin Warbeck: A Masque of Anamnesis: 21 June – 5 July, MA/MFA Classical and Contemporary Text

In this history play about people who have lost all connection to their own history, febrile uncertainty reigns. Everything is in flux. Politics, love, fealty and even identity are destabilised. It explores what happens when a people cease to know who they are. The performance will see the camera dropped into the middle of the action, like an invisible character trying to make sense of the world in which they’ve found themselves. It has been filmed in long, continuous (and sometimes vertiginous) takes.

The Coat: 28 June – 12 July, BA Performance in British Sign Language and English

Written by Ramesh Meyyappan who directs the third and final-year students of this pioneering degree programme for theatre-makers who are D/deaf or hard of hearing. This visual theatre production was inspired by Nikolai Gogol’s short story The Overcoat and incorporates illusions and movement with BSL dialogue.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “We start our summer season with six new productions that demonstrate the creativity and determination to keep the arts thriving at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

“We’ve worked safely and carefully within all health and safety guidelines to offer on-campus ensemble opportunities, rehearsals and performances with students working in groups and bubbles.

“Our students are still here, still producing and performing with so much passion and energy in what has been a challenging year. We can’t wait for audiences around the world to see these incredible emerging artists whose resilience and commitment to their craft is truly inspiring.”

For more information and to book tickets, visit rcs.ac.uk/boxoffice.

Images – Robert McFadzean

NEWS: Musical theatre student at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland shares new song and video about the pandemic-hit performing arts industry.

A musical theatre student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has penned a new song about his passion for performing and how it feels to be part of the performing arts industry through a global pandemic.

What If I Told You was written by second-year student Harry Gascoigne in response to the challenges facing the theatre sector. It expresses the frustration of a ‘lost’ year of opportunities and the emotion of seeing dreams being put on hold before professional lives have even begun. There’s a note of hope too, conveying the dedication of young artists for whom the performing arts are a fundamental part of who they are.

Together with his year group on the BA Musical Theatre degree at Scotland’s national conservatoire, Harry recorded the song and accompanying video that’s shared for the first time today.

What if I told you,

That you couldn’t do what you wanted after years of waiting?

After years of training.

And what if I told you,

That you couldn’t be who you wanted after years of dreaming?

’Cause that’s how it’s seeming.

You tell us to adapt, you tell us to rethink our lives.

But not just for us, for you, arts need to survive.

So, where’s the compromise?

Because art is a fundamental part of our lives,

And the arts will survive and will continue to thrive.

View the video on YouTube

Harry said: “I wrote What If I Told You about the crisis in the performing arts industry when it felt that there was no support from the UK government or reopening dates in sight. Now, it feels like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. As the artists of the future, we stand together as we move into a new era of theatre.”

After writing What If I Told You on his piano at home, Harry shared the track with Emily Reutlinger, Head of the three-year BA Musical Theatre degree programme at RCS.

“Emily said it would be great to get the rest of the year group involved to record the song,” said Harry. “Everyone was up for it so I worked with my classmate Molly Stirrat, to pull it together.”

Emily Reutlinger, Head of BA Musical Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Harry has written a beautiful and meaningful song that captures the emotion of the last year for performing artists, who had to watch from the wings as theatres fell dark, with so much uncertainty surrounding their futures. What If I Told You is a rallying cry to the industry, a reminder that the arts will survive to see us through the darkest of times, and that these vibrant young artists are still here, still creating and producing work, and are ready to make their mark on the world.”

The second-year Musical Theatre cohort rehearsed and recorded What If I Told You under strict Covid guidelines at RCS: “There was a great atmosphere in the rehearsal room and it was such a special experience to come together,” said Harry, a songwriter and composer who also plays the saxophone, flute and guitar.

“Lots of students played instruments on the track. That’s one of the unique things about the Musical Theatre programme at RCS, that actor-musician element.”

Harry’s classmate, Molly Stirrat, who arranged and edited the music, said: “I’ve always been interested in composing and producing music. Harry and I wanted to incorporate as many people as we could so I decided to write parts for other students and their instruments. It was nice to see what first started as a basic backing track of drums, bass and keys become something more with the involvement of our amazing classmates who play instruments including viola, violin, cello, flute, sax, guitar, trumpet and banjo.

“It was a very enjoyable, new learning experience. From the first draft to the final production, a lot of hard work from both myself, Harry and all the other fantastic artists went into this and we’re very excited to share it with everyone.”

What If I Told You encapsulates the ethos of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s #WeAreStillHere scholarship campaign that aims to ensure the next generation of artists can follow their dreams at one of the world’s top three destinations to study the performing arts (QS World University Rankings 2021). The campaign is backed by Hollywood and West End actor James McAvoy – a BA Acting graduate – who narrates a short film that captures the creativity, resilience and dedication of students, staff and alumni throughout the pandemic. It voices an urgent call to support their future and that of the arts through scholarship.

REVIEW: Street Scene – New Athenium Theatre, Glasgow

Street Scene, Kurt Weill’s 1946 “Broadway Opera” is rarely revived in Scotland, the last time, the 1989 Scottish Opera/ENO production.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Elmer Rice (who wrote the book for the opera), Weill considered the score his masterpiece. One of his exile works, it was written in the US after fleeing the rise of Nazism in Germany in the inter-war years. Street Scene also has the distinction of being the winner of the first Tony Award for Best Original Score.

It’s the stoop of a New York brownstone in the Lower East Side of Manhattan over two swelteringly hot summer days in 1946.

The gossip flows as the vast cast of characters float in and out of the action: Anna Maurrant is having an affair with the milkman, but in reality Anna is seeking some comfort away from her monstrous bully of a husband, Frank. Rose her daughter is torn between two men – one a safe choice, the other not so.

Street Scene inhabits an interesting place in the world of theatre. A transition between European Opera and what we now know as modern American musical theatre. It has been said it places perfectly between Weill’s own Threepenny Opera and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

The music on its own is absolutely intriguing, mixing operatic arias such as Somehow I Never Could Believe, which is almost pure Puccini, Jazz and Blues in I Got a Marble and a Star and Lonely House, Broadway in Wrapped in a Ribbon and Tied in a Bow and the Jitterbugging, Moon Faced, Starry Eyed. There’s light and shade, drama and comedy and romance and tragedy all in one show. The mix of musical styles mirroring the multi-racial melting pot of the tenement’s ethnically diverse inhabitants.

While the book can suffer from too much going on, writer Rice had his finger firmly on the vibrant pulse of New York in the 40s. Where this Royal Conservatoire of Scotland production wins out is the stupendous cast and the stunning visual design. Any qualms about it’s 3 hour-plus running time are assuaged by the glorious sound and visuals. The music sounding at its most goose bump-inducing in the ensemble numbers.

Bravo and brava to all concerned. This is a production of infinite quality and a fitting showcase of the performers of the future, who, on the basis of this production, can and will go far.

Images: © Robbie McFadzean

REVIEW: Side Show – West Brewery, Glasgow

Based vaguely on the true story of British-born conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, vaudeville performers of the 1920s and 1930s, Side Show isn’t your average, jaunty musical. Instead it’s the story of two women with very different inner lives, forever joined, whose hopes and dreams are subsumed by the other, their individual potential never to be fulfilled.

Violet wants a home, a husband, a ‘normal’ life, Daisy desires fame, fortune and the bright lights of the Orpheum circuit. Those whose care they’re in, their only aim – to make as much money as possible exploiting them. Would-be impresarios  Terry and Buddy enter their lives, to, on the surface, help the twins escape their side show lives, only to in turn exploit them for their own ends.

The cast of self-proclaimed ‘freaks’ who populate the side show include a bearded lady, the Cannibal King, a human pincushion and a lizard man. Played here by a cast of actor/musicians in minimal costume/makeup.

Having the distinction of having failed twice on Broadway, this 1997 musical is rarely seen and it is easy to see why. The faults lie entirely with the writing and not the performers.

Act One plods and it takes until well in to act two for it to hit any kind of dramatic stride. It barely scratches below the surface of these complex women’s lives. There’s a lack in variation in tone, too many songs and a discomfort at the subject matter that doesn’t sit well with the modern psyche. The book is quite frankly, badly written and the lyrics tediously bombastic.

What is a winner is the cast. Despite fighting with an overly loud band (that sounded frequently out of tune) and questionable acoustics (although in a hugely atmospheric venue) that deadened the lyrics almost entirely, the cast gamely fight on. Their quality never in question. On the occasions they managed to break through the cacophony they are sublime. Their harmonies glorious. Grace Galloway is magnetic as twin Daisy, overshadowing the less effusive (as her character dictates) Violet from Emma Harding. Callum Marshall’s (Sir) vocals are unfortunately drowned out by the band and the lyrics are lost in the important first few songs that establish the plot. None of this is Marshall’s fault as he is visibly projecting. The ensemble are talented, but it sounds as if musicianship is not their forte and the playing space is sprawling (long and narrow) leading to the audience’s focus dancing all over the room uncomfortably.

A brave attempt but it doesn’t feel fully thought through by the production team. What seems like a match made in heaven – unusual, atmospheric venue and a musical set in the 20s/30s about side-show freaks – doesn’t work in reality. There are practicalities that need to be thought out when you present to an audience. Their viewing experience is paramount. If the sound is distorted by the venue and the staging renders watching it a physical feat, you are doing a disservice to your viewers and also your actors, whose undeniable talent is masked through no fault of their own. All of this added to the fact that Side Show just isn’t a very good show, makes this a rare misstep from RCS.

Performances at West Brewery until 23rd May 2018.

REVIEW: The Fiery Angel (Scottish Opera Sunday Series) – City Halls, Glasgow

Masochistic obsession, black magic, demons, mass possession, exorcism, skeletons, nuns, appearances from Faust and Mephistopheles, it’s no wonder Sergei Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel, often called lurid and sensationalist, is seldom staged. This latest production in The Sunday Series from Scottish Opera sees the work given a stripped back concert style treatment and it’s all the better for it.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

While lacking a set, it lacks for nothing else. The principal cast is largely made up of native Russian speakers and some fellow Eastern Europeans and is supplemented by current students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland opera school. The expertise with the language is partly the reason for the quality of this production, that and the considerable singing and acting skills of its principal players. Russian soprano Svetlana Sozdateleva is fine-voiced and gives a convincing, emotive performance throughout as the mentally unsound Renata, as is Azerbaijani baritone Evez Abdulla as Ruprecht and Russian tenor Dmitry Golovnin as Agrippa von Nettesheim, though it must be said that at times they, and their fellow singers find it hard to be heard over the outstanding orchestra (itself swelled in number by students from the Conservatoire), who, under the commanding baton of Mikhail Agrest, have rarely sounded more powerful.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

For all its, quite frankly insane subject matter, the score is an absolute winner: powerful, hypnotic, dissonant, majestic, bold and gripping.

Every aspect of this largely concert hall venue is utilised well: singers enter through the auditorium, sing from the balconies, orchestra stalls and act out the considerable drama in an arrangement of simply staged, but hugely effective scenes.

An absolute triumph for both Scottish Opera and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a fantastic opportunity to hear Prokofiev’s masterpiece sounding at its best.



REVIEW: London Road- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Chandler Studio Theatre, Glasgow

That anyone thought that a musical about the serial murders of five sex workers in sleepy Ipswich in 2006 would be suitable source material for a musical, might rightfully have been called utterly misguided – thoroughly insensitive, in fact, but that’s the premise for Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork’s London Road.

Delivered verbatim style, the lyrics are culled from interviews that creator Alecky Blythe conducted with the real inhabitants of London Road. The musical a reflection of how the residents, sex workers and media dealt with the terrifying and sensational events unfolding around them.

This work defies every preconception you might have about it. It is thoughtful, intelligent and utterly compelling and there’s not a whiff of exploitation or sensationalism throughout (neither the killer, Steve Wright (dubbed the Suffolk Strangler) nor his victims appear (save for a ‘blanket over the head’ moment when Wright is rushed to the courthouse). Each group involved are given their voice, no matter how unpalatable or un-PC it might be. The honesty and raw truth of it all is what sets it above its contemporaries. The plaudits the work received on its debut at the National Theatre, utterly deserved.

The work is in the safe hands of the 3rd year BA Musical Theatre students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, under the direction of Philip Howard, and their quality and commitment to the work, make it unmissable. The large ensemble cast is faultless. The set design from Meghan Grieve, suitably dark and atmospheric, with an abundance of beautifully realised tiny details, the choreography by EJ Boyle is innovative and eye-catching. The only gripe would be the ear-splittingly loud band which overpowers the vocals and drowns out the lyrics at times.

This is a work of the utmost quality and a refreshing change to the lightweight musical theatre fluff that abounds – tickets are like gold dust, but if you can secure one – you won’t regret it.

Runs until 1 December 2017

100 WORD REVIEWS: Urinetown – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

There’s a world water shortage and you can only pee if you pay, that is the premise of Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman’s Urinetown.

Presented by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, this is a high quality production with a talented cast of a, quite frankly, meh! musical. In trying to be clever (it parodies the musical theatre form and many hit shows) it just isn’t as clever as it likes to think it is.

Too many pee-related puns which get thin quickly and an instantly forgettable soundtrack save the glorious “Run, Freedom Run” render it a pleasant way to kill a few hours but little more.

3 ***

REVIEW: Under The Ground – Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s new musical Under The Ground wears its influences well and truly on its sleeve. This tale of loneliness, life, love and loss on the Glasgow Subway, whilst entertaining, offers little in the way of originality.

Presented as a series of vignettes, all forms of life are here: a young widow mourning the loss of her husband, a love rat, a man forced by a slip of the hand to propose to a girl he can barely stand, to name a few.

It is, as it always was with RCS productions, meticulously put together: slick staging, an on-form band and professional delivery and there are sufficient changes of pace, tone, texture and emotion to keep interest levels high, but the derivative songs are quite frankly, instantly forgettable the moment you cross the exit. The are issues with the setting too, which could have been more clearly stated and the idiosyncrasies of Glasgow’s infamous Clockwork Orange, that anyone who has ever travelled on could instantly recognise, are not utilised to add much-needed atmosphere.

There are though some nicely nuanced performances and some fine voices however, there are a few whose energy levels tipped their characterisations into over the top territory and quite a few had projection issues rendering their voices inaudible beyond the first rows.

An admirable attempt at a new musical but more work needs to be done on the music and setting before it’s the finished article.

Runs until 31 August 2015 (alternative days)

This review was originally published at:


100 WORD REVIEWS: Willy’s Bitches – Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh

The second of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s musical offerings, allows Shakespeare’s women to vent some steam at their treatment at the hands of The Bard.

As their other work this year, Under The Ground, this musical is presented as a series of vignettes, but the lack of a ‘book’ means one can’t help feeling that this could have been so much more.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have some emotional impact. There are a few notable performances and a few not so. There’s also an over-reliance on over-acting to convey emotion and much potential impact is lost in the histrionics.

A little more work and this could be a cracker.

REVIEW: The Tempest – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originaly written for and published by The Public Reviews at:


Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Andy Arnold

Design: Hazel Blue

Lighting Design: Sergey Jakovsky

Sound Design: Barry McCall

Tron Artistic Director Andy Arnold directs a predominantly female cast from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA Classical and Contemporary Text programme, in this his Mayfesto production of The Tempest: Shakespeare’s tale of magic, morality, love and betrayal.

While the programme notes state ‘the text has been slightly edited’, it manages to stick largely to Shakespeare’s original whilst giving greater focus to the themes of colonisation which exist in the text: indeed in this production the play’s first and last words are given over to Martinican poet, politician and denouncer of colonial racism, Aimé Césaire. These judicious cuts result in a lively and engaging production which whips along at a cracking pace.

The production scores highly on atmosphere: Hazel Blue’s inventive staging, an earthy hued island with a skeleton of a high-masted sailing ship, provides enough interest for the eye without detracting from the action and is complemented well by Sergey Jakovsky’s effective lighting design. However it must be said that Barry McCall’s sound design whilst evocative, often drowns out whole patches of dialogue, whether this is down to poor enunciation on the part of the actors or a heavy-hand on the volume button one cannot tell.

Arnold’s nimble direction showcases the skill of his actors and keeps the interest levels high throughout; indeed he manages to elicit some beautifully measured performances and a United Nations of accents from this youthful cast. Standout among them Rebecca Murphy as Prospero, who delivers a perfectly controlled central performance, though her extremely strident Australian accent sometimes consigns some of Prospero’s most notable lines to the winds. Kenny Boyle’s Ariel is a less sulky characterisation than the usual and his mastery of the ethereal other-worldliness of the sprightly spirit is captivating. The two are ably supported by the rest of the company, most noteworthy among them Flora Sowerby’s Cockney wide-boy Stephano and Amy Drummond’s Welsh Valley Trinculo, who provide the high comedy of the piece. There is also a more thoughtful and dignified portrayal  of the native, enslaved Caliban from Renee Williams.

This is a refreshing departure from the more traditional stagings of the play and the perfect showcase for these young actors at the start of their careers. A vibrant re-telling of the tale, visually pleasing, bristling with life and with some new food for thought thrown in. Well worth catching if you can.

Runs until 16th May 2014

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