Home Nations festival rehearsals: week 1

Although we’ve been working on it for months and months, last week was when we finally realised just how soon our Home Nations Festival kicks off, as three (of our four) hard-working creative teams arrived at Tron Towers for the traditional pre-production meet and greet, cramming into our Vic Bar to say hi, have a catch up and nick a cup of tea and a biccie before sloping off to begin rehearsals on Edwin Morgan’s Dreams & other Nightmares, Beowulf and Under Milk Wood.

If we haven’t talked about it enough, our Home Nations festival includes four main productions, all taking place between 17 July- 3 Aug, which means for the next three weeks every space in our building is being given over to rehearsals, costume fittings, set builds—not to mention the normal manic panic in the admin office! It’s definitely the most exciting time to be in the theatre, but it’s also more than a little bit stressy. We’re getting through an awful lot of cake right now.

Our community company working on Under Milk Wood have been rehearsing since the beginning of the year, so they’re on the final strait now, getting ready to go on the Tron stage. The set is starting to take shape, transforming Charlotte Lane’s model box (see below) into its full-size glory. You might have noticed, we’ve been putting calls out on our Facebook for a host of empty green and brown glass bottles to decorate the set: we need LOADS, so if you can help, Box Office would love to take your empty (clean!) glass bottles to add to our Under Milk Wood masterpiece!

Bottles for the Under Milk Wood set

Bottles being collected for the Under Milk Wood set

The Edwin Morgan rehearsal room is at a totally different stage. We’re re-staging the show (we first co-produced it back in 2011 with Glasgay!) so in the first week back our two returning cast members (Davy McKay and Steven Duffy) have been re-familiarising themselves with the script and getting to know Laurie Ventry, who’s coming on board this time round in the part of The Biographer. It’s always great to see how new actors can change the chemistry of a show, make scenes run differently, give whole interactions a totally different feel—but it still works. Magic of theatre and all that.

Steven Duffy, Davy McKay and Laurie Ventry in rehearsals

Steven Duffy, Davy McKay and Laurie Ventry in rehearsals

And in Beowulf rehearsals—aside from devouring whole packs of Tunnocks tea-cakes!— our three-woman company is working to bring Seamus Heaney’s poetic epic to life. Beowulf is a dramatic reading, with only minimal props and costumes, so much of the drama has to come directly from the performances. Luckily, we’ve got a brilliant cast, in the form of Lorraine McIntosh, Helen McAlpine and Anita Vettesse.

Anita Vetessee and Lorraine McIntosh in Beowulf rehersals

Anita Vetessee and Lorraine McIntosh in Beowulf rehersals

As well as rehearsals of course, all around the building we’re doing our final prep for Home Nations opening night. Invitations are being sent out; programmes for the shows are being designed and signed off; costumes are being created, fitted and adjusted; our new Best Of British menu is being finalised… Everything is all go!

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Home Nations Festival 2014- it’s almost kick-off!

Dylan Thomas. Seamus Heaney. Edwin Morgan. Liz Lochhead. Carol Ann Duffy. How’s that for a dream team?

Scotland might be going a bit sports-crazy this summer, but here at the Tron we’re busy gearing up for our very own contribution to the Commonwealth Festival 2014 programme, our Home Nations Festival!

The Home Nations Fest is all about celebrating some of the greatest poets and playwrights from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, and features (among much, much more!) three full-scale productions, a dramatic reading, new writing, live music, performance poetry… and basically more literary loveliness than you can shake a stick at!

Our four major new productions– representing the four corners of the British Isles– look a bit like this:

Under Milk Wood- Dylan Thomas (Wales)
Edwin Morgan’s Dreams and other Nightmares- Liz Lochhead (Scotland)
Beowulf- Seamus Heaney (Ireland)
Grimm Tales- Carol Ann Duffy (England)

See, something for everyone!

Next Monday we’re gearing up for the HUGE pre-Fest meet & greet with the cast and production teams from each of the four shows, so pop back then for all the chat and photos from the first day. In the meantime, check out each of our four main productions by clicking on their images below– and by the way, aren’t these lovely images? Courtesy of the design wizards over at Jamhot design (cheers guys!)

Under Milk Wood- Dylan Thomas Edwin Morgan's Dreams and Other Nightmares- Liz Lochhead
Beowulf- Seamus Heaney Grimm Tales- Carol Ann Duffy
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Macbeth: Tron Ambassadors take on the Scottish Play

With two new Tron Ambassadors recruited this September, what better start to their year with us than in at the deep end – with a reviewing workshop from Across the Arts editor and critic Michael Cox, and straight into that evening’s performance of Macbeth to put their newly-learnt reviewing skills into practice.

Emma Quinn talks us through how Rachel O’Riordan’s vision of the Shakespearean tragedy held up against her expectations of the well-loved Scottish Play:

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the legendary story of a man following the instructions of the supernatural to kill the king and steal the crown of Scotland, and the series of bloody actions that follow.

Macbeth is portrayed by Keith Fleming, an incredible performance, with clear understanding and passion, though not fully provoking the sympathy for Macbeth that the audience should feel. Leila Crerar, the only female in the production, is Lady Macbeth, young, highly sexualised, but nonetheless very powerful.  However, I feel her portrayal was a little too innocent for the character, and while Crerar is undoubtedly a brilliant and very talented actress, I think Lady Macbeth isn’t quite the role for her.

Rachel O’Riordan’s concept is very clear: simple and not distracting from the acting.  The costumes consist of dark shirts, trousers and boots, with long military jackets for battle – hardly of the era but not desperately modern.  Kenny Miller’s set of a grey, medieval castle wall, and the rest, chairs and a table, lying on and around the acting area at all times, is dark, imposing and simply remarkable. This, coupled with the costumes, contrasts with the stark red of the plenteous amount of blood in the production, making it more shocking and harsh.  All in all, a great concept that worked extremely well.

The Three Weird Sisters are played by men who also double as Thanes and soldiers, and this aspect I found very interesting as well as impressive, as one minute the trio were upright and proper, the next, hunched over, disjointed beings, “not like th’ inhabitants o‘ th’ earth”. While I’m on the subject, I thought Richard Conlon’s performance in particular, both as a Weird Sister and the Thane of Ross, was impeccable, and, not to spoil anything, but I thought the ending was absolutely perfect.

Over the years there have been too many productions of the Scottish Play to count, but this is certainly not one to be missed.

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Rachel Ross casts a critical eye over the production’s highs and lows, ‘battle ground to banquet hall’:

Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth is a story of which most are familiar, but to those who have yet to experience the bloody tale, Rachel O’Riordan’s production is a traditional piece of Scottish theatre.

The tale begins with a very Scottish fight scene – one filled with Glaswegian grunts and “arghs” – in which Macbeth fights loyally for his king and country (unbeknown to him, for the last time). Kenny Miller’s set creates an open, versatile basis for the play ranging from battle ground to banquet hall; a medieval castle wall with huge windows and candle light. Scene to scene transitions flow naturally, thanks to the subtle, atmospheric changes in lighting.

An exciting new element brought to this classic by O’Riordan was the portrayal of the Three Weird Sisters. Unexpectedly, the catalysts to the action are played by men who also fill the roles of Ross, Lennox and Caithness.  Shedding their long coats to reveal their strapped up, tortured bodies as each face morphed into a crude, grimaced expression created a thick air of tension.  This tension, however, was relieved immediately after the Witches had delivered their prophecies, as the actors skilfully and mysteriously slipped back into their disenchanted characters.

Encouraged by his young, ambitious wife, Keith Fleming fills the role of Macbeth as he is, to quote another famous work of Shakespeare, “hoist by his own petard”.  Although fluent in his speech and precise with his movements, Fleming seemed somewhat lacking in emotion. His protrayal of a man plummeting towards death did not seem totally convincing throughout.

Lady Macbeth, played by Leila Crerar, was the only woman in the cast. Lengthy speeches can easily become disengaging, but Crerar’s use of raw tone, weaving delicately between excited, sinister, manipulative and tortured added a whole new level of intensity to the character. During her famous sleepwalking scene, Crerar performed with clarity and conviction, and a single fresnel highlighted her, held by one of the witches who followed her like a vindictive shadow during the explicit, slanderous slumber.  This was another creative lighting effect which plunged the audience into her feeling of isolation.

Although lengthy in places, the majority of the play captivated the audience with gripping action and occasional comic relief – such as the drunken porter’s jokes as Macduff knocked at the gate!  The production lacked memorable original qualities (other than the explicit characterisation of Lady Macbeth), but shed new light on a classic tragedy, and, overall, provided an entertaining evening.

 

 

 

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Children’s classic Hairy Maclary arrives at the Tron

Nonsense Room Productions tell us a little of why they’re excited to bring their stage adaptation of children’s classic Hairy Maclary to Glasgow this autumn…

Nonsense Room are very much looking forward to our visit to the Tron at the end of September.  Most of the creative team behind the show all trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, RCS), so have very fond memories of our time in the city.  Indeed the company has it’s origins in a flat in the West End and two of our performers also trained, or are training, at the Royal Conservatoire.    Bruce Strachan, the shows Director, recently worked with some students from the RCS in the On the Verge festival – exploring new work in the Tron’s Changing house.  So it’s very much a ‘home’ performance!

Hairy Maclary himself has some good West Coast roots.  He is often listed in Scottish book shops under ‘Scottish Stories’, despite being a very proud Kiwi!  However, New Zealander Lynley Dodd’s father was Scottish – from Rutherglen – so he’s at least an honorary Scot.

It has been a really busy summer for Nonsense Room– now in it’s 11th year.  The phenomenal success of ‘The Hairy Maclary and Friends Show’ continues to grow.  This summer we have visited New Zealand for Hairy’s 30th birthday celebrations, had our 4th successful year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and are about to embark on our third tour of the UK, starting at the Tron.  Also this December, the show returns to the Sydney Opera House after our 7 week run there in 2011/12.

Hairy Maclary is at the Tron on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th September 2013, and you can buy your tickets online or by calling box office on 0141 552 4267.

 

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Q&A with Rapture Theatre’s Michael Emans

Jimmy Chisholm, David Tarkenter & Tam Dead Burn star in The Collection.

Rapture Theatre’s Artistic Director talks to us about The Collection, their latest production which opens at the Tron tonight, and runs until Saturday.  There will be a post-show discussion on Thursday 12th September with playwright Mike Cullen and Playwrights’ Studio Scotland’s Fiona Sturgeon Shea.

 

  • What was it that attracted you to staging Mike Cullen’s play?

It’s very prescient with the whole issue of debt and the amount of people in debt being so great at the moment.  That and the proliferation of loan companies makes it very much a play for today.  It’s also very well written and is a further example of a great Scottish play that had a very successful first production but has been criminally overlooked since.  It’s very funny, dark and provides challenges to both directors and actors .

  • What is the most challenging aspect of bringing a production like this to stage?

I wanted to give its strong visual  aesthetic to complement and balance the rich textual element of the play.  To me the play has a “noir-ish” quality and influence and the choice of visual metaphor was key to realising this.

  • What sort of audience reactions do you anticipate from the audience of The Collection?

I want, in the main, to entertain them, to bring them on a roller coaster and to give them pause for thought around the issue of debt.

  • The world of debt collection is particularly dark one – is there humour in the play and is it difficult to reconcile this with the setting?

The play is full of typically black Scottish humour and that provides the perfect respite from the darker elements in the play.  It’s a great night out, it’s thoughtful and it’s a great chance to see great actors perform.

You can buy tickets to The Collection online or by calling box office on 0141 552 4267.

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Stellar Quines return to the Tron with award-winning show

Winner of a Scotsman Fringe First, a Herald Angel award and – most recently – recipient of Best Production in this year’s Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland, The List arrives at the Tron for one night only on Saturday 7th September.

With just one performance at the Tron tickets are going to be in high demand – so a few of us from the team made the trip over to Edinburgh to catch the show at its Fringe run in the beautiful space of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Summerhall.

I keep a tight list. Very detailed. I stick to it. Even more since she died. But I’m having trouble.

With Maureen Beattie’s performance already widely praised (Lyn Gardner, in her review, describes her performance as ‘Mesmerising and thrillingly unforgiving’), we came to the show with high expectations – and were not disappointed.  Set in rural Québec, the story unfolds around the magnetic Beattie’s character and her struggle to adjust to the isolated landscape painted so vividly in Jennifer Tremblay’s text.

Stellar Quines’ short tour around Scotland this autumn culminates in a final date at the Tron on Saturday 7th September.

To find out more about the show you can visit The List’s website, as well as have a gander at the links below…

The show’s trailer:

John Byrne in conversation with Joyce McMillan:

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Usylessly Lost in Ulysses: Chapter 18

Illustration: www.thomsonvthomson.com

Illustration: www.thomsonvthomson.com
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Ulysses meets Paterson’s Land

Last week I travelled through to Edinburgh with the production team to ensure the safe delivery of the Ulysses print (display materials, programmes and production photographs) at Paterson’s Land, one of this year’s new Fringe venues.  It was heartening to be met out of Waverley station by a host of Ulysses posters, once-Tron Stage Manager David’s feet doing the can-can all the way up the Mound.

 

Paterson’s Land is about a 10-minute walkfrom the station, just off the Royal Mile and not too far from the Pleasance.  It’s a grand old Edinburgh University building, with a beautiful courtyard for enjoying a drink in the sunshine mid-interval (we’re not even entertaining the possibility of rain!).

Paterson's Land corridor.

Any attempts at escaping the humphing about of a wagon-load of Ulysses set was futile – but luckily I did manage to get a nosey around the venue for some photos while everyone else was hard at work.

The space we’ll be sharing with NTS and Scottish Opera is a well-proportioned lecture theatre that has been undergoing a technical transformation in time for the first shows taking place tomorrow.

It’s an ambitious Fringe show for us, and especially for the production team, who have a tight turnaround between shows in which they must raise the set – no mean feat for such an intricate and multi-layered design.

Before the get-in.

After it was all packed away in a strictly-adhered-to order, the crew were able to perform a few dry runs over the weekend to ensure all props, flooring and flats were positioned in the most sensible order ready for the show’s first performance on Friday, at 5pm.

Flat-packed goodness.

 

Cavernous wagon.

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