27 July, 2020

Premières of new works from leading British playwrights

Starting this August 7, Pitlochry Festival Theatre will launch not one, but four months of online premières, as part of its three-year Shades of Tay project, reimagined at the start of lockdown with immediacy for these challenging times.

This exciting series of new digital works - more than 20 new writings from playwrights and poets, and brought to life by the theatre’s 2020 Summer Season ensemble – a Love Letter to Scotland – will form a vital part of the theatre’s tri-daily, digital series #PFTLightHopeJoy, which launched just before lockdown began, and created to respond to the uncertain and isolating world in which we now find ourselves.

Inspired by the River Tay and its surrounding landscape - including Scotland’s multi-award-winning, world-renowned outdoor extravaganza, The Enchanted Forest, with whom these commissions are in partnership - the works will be performed as audio dramas, podcasts, short films. The cast will also perform the short works later in a live festival after the Theatre reopens.

Launching Friday 7 August with Douglas Maxwell’s new work, Beautiful Boy, they will then continue weekly until late November, with new works to look forward to from Timberlake Wertenbaker, Stephen Greenhorn, Peter Arnott, Jo Clifford, Abi Zakarian, Hannah Khalil, Chinonyerem Odimba, Daniel Bye, Oliver Emanuel, Hannah Lavery, Jenny Lindsay, Martin McCormick, Linda McLean, Michael O’Neill, Frances Poet, Dan Rebellato, Ellie Stewart and Morna Young.

More new works will appear online throughout December from Deborah McAndrew, Bert Clark, Sally Reid, Lesley Hart and May Sumbwanyambe.

The commissioned work for Shades of Tay is not limited to writing, with plans for bio-sculpting, a water installation, song-writing - including Tay Songs by Ball Boy, and She-Town Ballad by Lila Clements and Tarek Merchant - and for children, Ligach and the Salmon, a story by Lynda Radley, #Whatnowifi, by Giles Conisbee, a reimaginging of Hansel & Greteland a Beaver Ballad, written and performed by renowned playwright and sound designer, Isobel McArthur and MJ McCarthy.

Each piece will be performed by one of Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s 2020 Summer Season cast, including Kirsty Stuart and Richard Standing, whom Pitlochry Theatre fans would have seen in the hugely-acclaimed production of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer last Autumn; as well as Barbara Hockaday, and Rachael McAllister, who both made their debut in 2019.

Speaking about the project, Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Artistic Director, Elizabeth Newman, said: "The writing that has been produced by this extraordinary group of writers has been simply incredible. The writers have approached the task with their own personal verve and, therefore, each piece is unique, rich, powerful and offers up the identity of the individual’s voice too. Amy and I worked with the Ensemble to produce the recordings and then I went on to work with Nick Trueman and Russell Beard to create the companion films. This was a joy for us to create for audiences."

Playwright, Timberlake Wertenbaker explained: "An enchanted forest and a long river moving through Scotland, it’s already a kind of dream. But the notion of writing something with a forest and a river feels like a magic key in itself. 

We need enchantment at the moment: we are living through a time that feels like a curse. And we know that curses and evil spells are most often lifted by a magic word or by a phrase: something we need to learn, or something knew all along but need to remember. Language can break the shackles of the spell, or at the very least, light our way out."

Hannah Khalil told us:

“When Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director of Pitlochry, asked me if I would write a little piece, I jumped at the chance: it was perfect timing. We were just in lockdown and the news was scary – I had had two plays cancelled. So I was feeling pretty blue and to have an opportunity to escape into an imaginative world and pretend I was in Scotland - in the countryside where I would love to be – it was really magical.”

 When commissioned to write, Jo Clifford described her inspiration:

“I normally live in Leith; I live in the middle of an urban landscape, and I can’t believe I’m here, out in the countryside, where I’ve ended up being isolated. What luck, how astonishing! It reminds me of living close to the sea, of a time that I spent often visiting a house that was just by the banks of the River Tay, the other side of the river from Dundee. And how enormous the volume of water was there: how impressive, how frightening it was. And I think that’s what my play is going to be about… the power of nature that has suddenly put us in this situation; it’s reminded us that nature is stronger than we are – that we do belong to the natural world. And that we also belong to each other.”

All the new works will be captioned, free to access and share, and intended as gifts to those isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who feel isolated from Theatre in general.

All Shades of Tay commissions will première on Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s online platforms, including YouTube: https://bit.ly/PFT_YouTube where all videos from the #PFTLightHopeJoy series can be followed.

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