I took part in a panel of young(er) theatre makers for Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland’s TalkFest at Traverse theatre.
The other participants and I were all high on general festival giddiness and it was great fun to hear about their shows and their different approaches. At over 30, I was probably the oldest guest on the panel. I wondered how much my experience was different from the nineteen-year-old beside me. I probably share more points of reference and perspective with people ten years my senior than my junior.
We’d been asked to think of a moment in our lifetimes which defined our influenced the work we do. I chose the arrival of an iMac in our house, and more widely the spread of the Internet as a basic amenity and not the preserves of libraries and military bases.
The early, less commercial, Internet was a place of democratised content, where the Louvre occupied the same profile as The Beano. Where the Harry Potter fansites were better than the official channels. I could develop niche interests, learn basic code, install mpreg mods for The Sims, manage communities and perhaps, most importantly, find likeminded individuals who I would write in partnership with throughout my high school years.
The mix of high and popular culture, the sense of entitlement to appropriate and rework artworks is burrowed deep into the heart of my work. It’s neat to be prompted to consider how and what I make.
I didn’t think music was for me. In the same way that PE wasn’t for me. I couldn’t keep up with the class so I was mostly ignored by the teaching staff. Allowed to sit on the steps and reread Gormenghast whilst the others got their swimming badges and cycling proficiency certificates.
Music at school was the same Bonkers happy hardcore 3CD compilation that got passed around the class. When we got older it you either went to the Archaos Unders (dance) or the Cathouse Unders (gothy emo pop punk). Both terrified me but at least at the Catty you’d get ska-punk covers of wedding party classics you could sing along to. I never knew all the words. I didn’t have the right clothes. I didn’t want to kiss any of the boys.
My friends and I would go see the boys we fancy play in bands. Stand at the front of the stage and try to make eyes with them. We’d make their merch for them. Take their promo shots Put them up in our spare bedrooms. The most music we ever made ourselves were unamplified jam sessions with a dad’s borrowed bass and an Argos catalogue electric.
It wasn’t for us.
When someone asks me what kind of music I dig, I get the same nervousness when I’m asked what if there’s anything I can have on a not-so-vegan-friendly restaurant menu. Don’t want to be difficult or for folk to think less of me because of my taste and choice.
The music I love, I LOVE. It’s a layer of my skin. It stops the stuff that hurts from getting too deep.
I think this is a very usual response to music. Just for ages I got it in my head that I wasn’t feeling these things for the right kind of stuff. Which, aye, is nonsense. But I picked it up from somewhere and dragged it along with me for thirty years.
The past year I’ve been working with people whose minds, living rooms and harddrives are a vast catalogue of Western pop, rock and orchestral music. They’ve made me realise a very obvious basic fact about myself. I FUCKING LOVE WORKING WITH MUSIC. AND I'M ALLOWED TO LOVE IT.
Working with Middle Child on One Life Stand in particular opened up avenues for me. Each new album or artist they presented me with like a precious treasure felt like a gift. Even the stuff I didn’t respond to. Each suggestion was a creative response to my ideas that nudged my heart open a little more to the idea that MUSIC IS FOR ME.
So, with that, I’m revisiting some work that I began before spending so much time with musicians and music lovers over the past year. Work that was cautious, embarrassed by its tastes, that didn’t let the girls to the front. And I’m so ready for it.
I had my first experience working with a community cast and what a whopper it was. The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Otherengaged with 100 non-professional performers from across Edinburgh over three months with the full might of the Lyceum Theatre behind it.
I was one of two Assistant Directors, working with the directing partnership of Wils Wilson and Janice Parker.
It was also my first experience of working in the wings whilst a performance is happening on stage. It was really wonderful to see how the stage management and wardrobe teams negotiated the space and facilitated the smooth, seamless movement of people, props and costumes upon costumes.
I think we’re all knackered. We were all doing something new, something big, and something wonderful.
Social media has been difficult the past couple of weeks. Rage inducing, confusing, fearful. I desperately wanted to have face to face conversations with other people. Create something together as totems are being torn down.
Huge thanks to my colleagues at the Tron Theatre who responded with openness and support to my ask to host a 12 hour zine jam, an open invitation to members of our theatre community to respond to abuses of power across our industry. We didn’t know who would turn up.
I got a lot of external support too in terms of setting up the space, establishing a code of conduct and gathering together resources to sign post people to should they need them. Thank you.
I gathered my collage making materials and waited to see who would arrive.
Some people stayed for a couple of minutes, some stayed for a couple of hours and some stuck it right out to the end with me, determined that we’d get our zine to print by the end of the day, ready for distributing the next morning. Across the day we welcomed a range of collaborators from across the industry, actors, writers, directors, playwrights, administrators, producers, administrators, men and women. The conversations that took place across the table were perhaps the greatest thing to come out of the day, but our collective zine is a beautiful thing to share with you.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
A rapid response zine created by members of the Scottish theatre community addressing abuses of power within our industry.
The following pages represents a range of people who work in theatre who attended a zine jame on Thursday 26th October 2017 at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow.
Over the course of twelve hours, we cut, pasted and chatted about our response to revelations related to Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement in relation to our own industry.
The resulting zine is intended as a rapid response to mounting conversations about sexual harrasment and abuses of power in theatre. It documents where we are after two weeks of seismic ground shifting.
We hope that readers of the collected responses will find solidarity, provocation or insight amongst these pages.
- Eve Nicol
This zine was created by workshop participants who responded to an open invitation. The opinions expressed here are their own and not necessarily those of the Tron Theatre.
Since the start of the 2017, I've been co-coordinating a social play reading group and am looking forward to meeting back with the group for our first session of 2018.
I'd been involved in similar informal groups through the National Theatre of Scotland and Lyceum and the days they took place were often my favourite days. Sitting around with a bunch of cool people. Drinking something nice. Talking about plays you loved. Finding your own way in to a play you're not mad about by hearing someone else talk about why they love it. It's great. More please.
There's a network of about forty-five theatre professionals who have signed up to the mailing list, with a different group of between 3 - 12 at each session. It's really great to talk about plays from a distance from the source. To imagine what our own productions would look like. To just hang out for the love of the thing.
More information or join in here.
Me and Laurie made a thing.
We’re both playwrights. We’d been feeling as if there was a bit of a gap in the current provision of new writing nights in the central belt and mystery around the work that actually gets commissioned/programmed. We’d spoken a lot about what our version of a new writing night would be – we ended up making a wee publication instead.
Our zine, Sugar, is focused on celebrating the processes and successes of playwrights working in Scotland’s central belt. It’s an opportunity to share our ideas, the work of peers, gain insight from established writers who inspire us. Then comes the most important bit – shoving it in the faces of other people and saying LOOK, LOOK, LOOK HOW COOL THIS IS! SCOTTISH PLAYWRIGHTS ARE AAAAAMAAAAAZING.
We only gave out the zine by hand. Having conversations was important. I did whack a few copies off in the post but on the proviso that they send something back in return. My favourite was An Oral History of Pirate Radio in Hull, 1993 -2005 from Jamie Porter. I wouldn’t have stumbled across this topic in any other way. Brilliant.
Zinewright is the new playwright – there are lots of great examples of literary and art based publications in Scotland but its fun to see more popping up in our own industry. Our local pals Andy Edwards & Gareth Vile have made great publications. Further afield there is Exeunt’s membership publication, and The Dionysian and OG theatre-zinewright Megan Vaughan’s creations. We really love creating something with love and care that can also be torn up, scribbled on, photocopies, destroyed.
Aye, we’re going to make another one.
I supported Georgie Mac in making a show only Georgie could make. Our enjoyment of fantasy tales to tell big, complex real world emotions (particularly The Never-ending Story - seriously, watch that as an adult. Mind Blown) was a jumping off point.. Just enjoy a story. Nothing fancy. We accompanied this with Georgie’s talent for drawing to create a storytelling show with live illustration. - Hero.
My job was to write the script. I found the writing this show a challenge emotionally as I endeavoured to be more open and straightforward with talking about the consistent anxiety and periods of low mood I experience. It's cool, it's chill. It's just how I operate. I've been learning how to stop battling it but to recognise it and to embrace its energy. A nice thing about getting older I guess. Can we stop pretending that we don't all deal with this side of being human on some level, please.
Once the show was up, I was hands off which was a bit of a strange but welcome feeling. I'm usually also collecting tickets or running the lights or pouring out the post show wine. My job was done and someone else can get on with theirs. The ambition of the show was to make something that only Georgie and I could make, to see what they experience of doing a full run during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is like and to loose as little money as possible. It was quite nice to elect to not worry about inviting potential partners, hustling for reviews, crossing fingers for awards. The show Just Was. The size of the potential market meant that audiences still found us.
One guy - who saw the show twice - would months later complimented Georgie on the show in a random supermarket encounter in another city. We got a lovely email from a family whose young kid was inspired to tell stories of his own. These two connections makes me feel like we found our audience for whom the show could speak for and to.
We had a lot of support to put this show together, particular from Ross, who created our beautiful score and drilled Georgie in his recorded performance; Georgie’s parents who constructed our “set” and brought it to us in Scotland; my family who served as local transport; Lea who took great photos in rehearsals; Shilpa who provided an outside eye as we worked through our ideas; and the other participants of Black Market Room 3 who really pulled together in creating a great performance space out of nothing.
Georgie Mac paints brilliant characters and scenes from a new story in front of audiences. Hero is an uplifting, live illustrated, storybook adventure that embraces fantasy to address issues about anxiety, depression and learing to live with sad thoughts. Follow the adventures of Cavalier, a young boy plauged by nightmare, who lives at sea on a ship stuck in still waters. He travels with the nightmice to reach the Horizon and try to bring life back to The Doldrum.
Created and performed by Georgie Mac
Written by Eve Nicol
Music by Ross Clark
5-26 August 2017
Part of PBH Free Fringe
Sketchbooks and recording of show
I spent a busy three days with the Lyceum Theatre directing a “theatrical exploration” as part of a partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival - Playing With Books.
Playwrights had been paired up with authors to create adaptations of recently published books. I was working with Stef Smith on Amy Liptrot’s memoir, The Outrun. Nature and too-muchness. Territory I love exploring.
Stef had produced a great response to Amy’s book in a 30 or so page script. It remained utterly recognisable to the book but also created imagined conversations and presented completely different perspectives on the feelings explored in the memoir.
Frances Thorburn and John Kielty powered through the three days of rehearsal/experimentation, playful, smart and craziy skilled musically.
I enjoyed working with Cat Reilly, awesome human being and DJ, who joined us to score the piece. I was interested in how the registers of dance music can be felt in our bodies. Tremors. I’m learning that I really love working with someone who speaks a different creative “language”. You can’t get away with bullshit and it opens up so many more possibilities to explore. Working with people who don’t come from a theatre background also helps me to focus on my own skills and recognise the value I offer the partnership too.
The actual event was sold out months in advance. There was lots of interest in Amy’s story and the audience who joined us to see what we were working on clearly had a lot of love for the book – and now also any potential theatrical adaptation!
The whole Playing With Books project was a right cracker and I enjoyed seeing how the different teams approached the different texts. It was my first contact with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I think it may have spoiled all other festivals taking place in August for me. That place is serene but vibrant and oh my word, dude, if only my life was an Authors’ Yurt.
All Edinburgh Theatre wrote a write up of the event as part of the opening celebrations of the festival.
I've just come off the back of working as Assistant Director with the Lyceum Theatre thanks to support from a Federation of Scottish Theatre bursary and the openness of David Greig to let me hitch my wagon.
I met with David after his prompt in his inaugural season announcement that as a community we need to "encounter each other off social media". Social media has been my main source of income over the past six years, creating opportunities for me to work with theatres in an area I had been passionate about. But I've been progressively getting more and more disillusioned by social media. This little nugget to get offline and go outside felt like asking for a coffee chat with David was a fine thing to do. I'm generally awful at asking to meet people as I assume I'm hassling people. Which I KNOW is counterproductive because how are people going to know what you want/need if you don't tell them. And if I find a path to stability in theatre, I would want to pass the ladder down. So ask. LET PEOPLE HELP YOU, EVE. Sake.
Anyways. I was really keen to connect with a company at an exciting stage in its history. I'm coming more and more to terms that what does it for me in theatre is stuff which is often dismissed as being traditional - characters, narrative, dialogue . It doesn't feel cool and often isn't the work which gets me most excited (hello guitars and glitter and noise and declamatory text!). But when you hit the sweet spot (as the Lyceum has consistently been doing in David's first season) you can stage big works in a proscenium arch and for it be hugely modern, smart, generous and connected to the world outside its walls. So, yeah. This felt like a really good place for me to be. And it was. A ball.
It's the largest scale piece of work that I've been involved with. I adored learning so much more not only about the process of working with a playwright and directing a brand new piece of writing but also about the relationship with the creative, technical and administrative teams who all contribute to a production. There was loads to do and I loved doing it. Yeah. This.
We were invited to share Heroes' table top production of Sea Wall as part of INCOMING Festival, a co-production between A Younger Theatre and New Diorama Theatre, London.
It was an opportunity to test my if theory that this show could go to any pub proved true. The fact that the entire show can fit in a box the side of my head is pretty exciting and pro-touring. Let's go!
The venue was ace - props to the INCOMING team for setting us up in a great bar. We didn't have any technical specifications but I gave them some vague guidelines for the kind of vibe we found worked well - the kind of place you'd go to the pub quiz with your pals on Wednesday and get lunch with your parents on a Sunday.
Once Alan and I arrived In the basement venue, we dragged chairs around, fiddled with the dimmer switches, lit some candles - set the mood, baby. I kept finding lots of little secret stories in the decor around the space which supported the production. I like that as humans we look for connections and patterns in things. Always looking for the story in things.
Alan performed three shows back to back. We were delighted to have a large ex-Glasgow contingency show up to support us away from home which was ace. But it was also great to try out our ideas for the production on more people who don't have a personal connection to us or Heroes.
A great little jaunt with a great script and performer.