4 August, 2021

Pitlochry to close Summer Season 2021 with The Covid Requiem

Pitlochry Festival Theatre announces it will close its Summer Season with the Première of Jo Clifford and Lesley Orr’s The Covid Requiem, from 15 to 17 September, a beautiful and poignant new promenade production commissioned by the theatre, which will see a ceremony performed to mourn and celebrate the lives and stories of those lost during the pandemic.  

"We are here to tell the stories that could not be told.
To bear witness to the sorrow that could not be spoken.
To find the words that could not be said.
To celebrate the stories and lives of those we have lost."

- From The Covid Requiem by Jo Clifford and Lesley Orr

Performed in Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s beautiful gardens and its amphitheatre, The Covid Requiem will not only encompass the collective experience of these times, but it will also allow audience members to bring the names of their loved ones with them so that they can be read aloud and commemorated by the audience, and finally help them on the massive journey they face to make sense of what has happened, together.

Playwright Jo Clifford explained:

“My brother Tony died towards the end of 2019, and I was asked to write and deliver his eulogy at his funeral. It made me aware of how important it is for someone's story to be told and to be witnessed after their death.

“I looked after my wife during the six months she was dying of a brain tumour in 2003, and I remember so well how incredibly important it was for us to make sure one of us was with her all the time so that she did not die alone.

“So that during the first lockdown in spring of last year, I felt very deeply for those families who could not be with their loved ones as they lay dying in isolation; and who then were unable to hold proper funerals to mourn their death. 

“It seemed to me then, and seems to me now, that there is a massive amount of grief, grief that is, as it were, held collectively without ever having been given proper expression or the chance to fully heal.

“All my plays, and especially The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven, have an important spiritual dimension and function as rituals. 

“So, it occurred to me that theatre could have an important part to play in beginning the process of healing; and I approached Elizabeth Newman with the idea of such a thing happening in Pitlochry.

“I am so glad she agreed and put me in touch with Lesley Orr. Lesley's personal experience of bereavement, her deep roots in the social activism and spirituality of the Iona Community in Scotland and her extensive experience with people recovering from trauma all make her the perfect collaborator.

“To create this ritual in the beauty of the Pitlochry gardens, and to work with the beautiful traditional music of Duncan Chisholm and Innes Watson, is going to make this an incredibly special experience, we feel.”

Historian, theologian and activist for gender and social justice, Lesley Orr told us:

 “Working with Jo has been a privilege; a rich experience of mutual sharing, learning, and creating. We have journeyed together as companions during this strange time when people have experienced so many kinds of isolation and loss. And the notion of a journey has shaped the way we have imagined and written the Requiem. The process has been a helpful and healing experience for me, following the sudden death of my partner Peter in February 2020, so my hope is that this ritual might be a ceremony that (to paraphrase George Mackay Brown) helps others make unendurable sorrows bearable and beautiful.”

Elizabeth Newman, Pitlochry Festival Theatre's Artistic Director said:

"As many can see from our Summer Programme, I have endeavoured to make sure there is something for everyone - lots of entertainment, family fun, some hard-hitting drama, adaptations and, very importantly, new work. However, I did feel it was also important to try and speak to, and begin to make sense of, what has happened during the past year and a half. 

“The global pandemic has affected everyone’s lives. Last year was such an extraordinarily painful and difficult time. We all suffered loss in some way. Many of us experienced not even being able to attend the funerals of people we loved. And everything was made even harder by then not being able to come together with others to mourn and grieve. Pitlochry Festival Theatre profoundly believes the Theatre is a safe space to make sense of all the hard and brutal things about being human, but also to celebrate the lives of all those we have lost.  

"With all this in mind, when Jo wrote to me about her desire to have these difficult conversations when we could come back together, and simultaneously having discussions with Lesley on similar themes, I began to think: what would happen if they came together to create a piece of theatre? What would happen if they supported us to begin the process of collective grief in our Garden? "

Covid Requiem is directed by Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Associate Director, Amy Liptrott and features music from Duncan Chisholm, one of Scotland's most recognised and accomplished fiddle players and composers, and the multi-instrumentalist Innes Watson.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre is keeping things flexible so audiences can too. They will honour no-hassle refunds and exchanges for any reason (including the weather!) if it is requested at least 24 hours before the performance time. So, audiences can book for summer with the confidence that if plans change, their tickets and money can too!

The Pitlochry Festival Theatre production of The Covid Requiem will premiere from the 15-18 September at 2pm & 7pm.

Capacity is limited. For tickets and further information, click HERE.

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