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Five Minute Theatre - The NTS Go Online

If you break up a twenty-four hour period into five-minute segments,
you will have two hundred and eighty-eight small but perfectly formed
compartments of time to fill. From 5pm on June 21st to the same time
the next day, round about two hundred and thirty of those segments will
be filled with brand new pieces of theatre from all corners of the
world, which will be performed by their creators and streamed live
online. Logistically speaking, this five year anniversary initiative by
the National Theatre of Scotland sounds part headache, part adrenalin
rush, but if all runs smoothly on the day, Five Minute Theatre should
provide a breathless snapshot barometer of dramatic activity at a
grassroots level that sounds infinitely more fun than the recent
national census.

“Everything's changed in the last five years,” explains NTS Audience
Development Manager Marianne Maxwell, whose baby Five Minute Theatre
is, “not just in how we reach audiences, but in how they reach us. It's
completely different. There's been a total revolution in how we
communicate in terms of social networking and everything, so as the
National Theatre of Scotland we have to ask ourselves how we can use
that. Other companies like the National Theatre in London have started
showing live screenings of plays in cinemas, but we're a different
model to that. When we started with Home five years ago, it was a case
of going out to all of these places to do the work. Now it's a case of
seeing who's out there and finding out what they've got to offer.”

When the call was first put out for the project, no-one, least of all
Maxwell, was quite sure what the response would be. Such is the
democratic power of Facebook, Twitter, et al, compared to half a decade
ago, however, that more than three hundred entries were received within
a matter of weeks. While such a surprisingly high level of entries has
made a selection process necessary, it has also ensured there won't be
any middle of the night longeurs of dead air time to put off anyone
already logged on.

“We're aiming to do about eight an hour,” says Maxwell. “Just so we can
let things breathe a little bit. People who have entered have three
options. You can either perform it and pre-record it, we can go to you
and stream it live, or you can go to one of three hubs which we're
setting up, in Glasgow at the CCA, at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen or one
in Edinburgh and which we've yet to confirm. Eden Court in Inverness
were down as well, but what we've found is that everything from that
area that's come in is pre-recorded, so we've set up a hub in Ayr
instead, where there's been loads of demand. Who knew?”

Beyond Ayr, entries have come in from every local authority area in
Scotland, trickling up from London and the rest of England, as well as
Belgium, Germany, eight from China, one from India, as well as
Paraguay, Mexico and North America.

“It's really nice that the one from Belgium is by someone from Elgin,
and that one from Germany is an exchange student from Aberdeen,”
Maxwell enthuses, keeping things both local and global at the same time.

With a mix of theatre professionals such as novelist and playwright
Duncan McLean in Orkney, maverick actor Tam Dean Burn, playwrights
Douglas Maxwell, Rob Drummond and Gary McNair, actresses Joyce Falconer
and Anita Vettesse, the latter in Glasgow's old Panopticon Theatre, and
actress/director Alison Peebles with Anne Lacey on the back of mobility
scooters on the Clyde walkway, things probably won't be dull. Throw in
a mix of participants who include a woman in Edinburgh who's thirty-two
weeks pregnant talking with her partner and her bump, two women from
Paisley relating the experience of having autistic children across a
trampoline, a man on a farm having a conversation with a cow, a
performance while on a London to Brighton commuter train, and a
professional dancer in China performing for her mum for the first time,
and the sheer human appeal isn't hard to recognise.

“At times it's been quite emotional,” Maxwell admits. “There's lots of
lovely uses of peoples homes, because everyone has that memory of
making up plays when you were wee.”

One thing Five Minute Theatre most definitely looks set to b e is
inclusive in that much overused word's best possible sense. Of
twenty-odd schools taking part, Knox Academy in Haddington have been
inspired to host an entire day of theatre.

“You can tell it's not just folk we know, because we need to ask a lot
of people how they found out about the project. Of course, we reached
out to all our networks, but beyond that it's been through
none-traditional marketing that people have got involved, and I
honestly think it's the most uplifting thing I've ever been involved
with.”

Five Minute Theatre is streamed live from 5pm on June 21st until 5pm on
June 22nd
www.fiveminutetheatre.com

The Herald, April 19th 2011

ends

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