Pitlochry theatre commissions leading writers for digital works

Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland has commissioned a series of digital works by playwrights, poets and performers after announcing the postponement of its summer season.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre Season cancelled
Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Photo: Julius Cardew

The Pitlochry Festival Theatre season, which has been moved to 2021, will be replaced by 25 new pieces by writers and artists including Timberlake Wertenbaker who wrote modern classics such as Our Country’s Good.

They will be part of the theatre’s online series, #PFTLightHopeJoy, which was created to respond to the uncertain and isolated world in which we now find ourselves. The new work promises to be uplifting, hopeful and embracing in this time of confusion and separation.

The commissions are for Shades of Tay, which was originally announced in late 2019 as a three-year project. They been brought forward so artists can reach audiences while Britain is in lockdown and all the theatre buildings are shut.

Other British creatives involved include Stephen Greenhorn, Abi Zakarian, Hannah Khalil,  Chinonyerem Odimba, Peter Arnott, Bert Clark, Jo Clifford, Daniel Bye, Olly Emanuel, Lesley Hart, Hannah Lavery, Jenny Lindsay, Douglas Maxwell, Deborah McAndrew, Nicola McCartney, Martin McCormick, Linda McLean, Michael O’Neill, Frances Poet, Dan Rebellato, Sally Reid, Ellie Stewart, May Sumbwanyambe and Morna Young. More artists are still to be announced.

Inspired by the River Tay and the landscape around Pitlochry, the work will be performed as audio dramas, podcasts, short films and more by actors who were due to be involved in the theatre’s summer season, including Kirsty Stuart, Richard Standing, Deirdre Davis and John Branwell. They will also be part of a live festival after the theatre reopens.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre artistic director Elizabeth Newman said: “The River Tay is 117 miles long. It possesses some of the most spiritual, exciting and inspiring stories. It is the compelling River Highway that everyone crosses at some point. We want this work to respond to the ideas found in this rich landscape, creating a celebration of our shared humanity and how art is wholly and truly inspired by nature.

“As we’ve said before, Shades of Tay is our love letter to Scotland. We are so excited about the idea of continuing to write beautiful words about our extraordinary country and its citizens, and this feels like the perfect time to create a space where art can help us celebrate our shared humanity and connect us with how much inspiration, comfort, and rich inspiration can be found in nature. In this time of isolation, we want to continue to share Pitlochry with the world, and the world with Pitlochry.”

Wertenbaker added: “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 we knew all along but need to remember. Language can break the shackles of the spell, or at the very least, light our way out.”

Released online in the coming weeks, all the new works will be captioned and free to access and share, “intended as gifts to those isolated by the Covid-19 pandemic and those who feel isolated from theatre in general”.

The team at Pitlochry Festival Theatre plan to use this time to approach commissions, performances, engagement practices and audiences in new, creative and inclusive ways.

New dates in 2021 have already been announced for the postponed summer season which includes the UK stage premiere of David Greig’s play Adventures with the Painted People and Frances Poet’s new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility:

Gypsy: 21 May to 2 October 2021

Private Lives: 4 June to 29 September 2021

Kiss Me Quickstep: 11 June to 30 September 2021

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: 18 June to 2 October 2021

Adventures with the Painted People: 22 July to 1 October 2021

Sense and Sensibility: 26 August to 1 October 2021


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