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Made In Scotland 2011 - The Rise of Remarkable Arts

When the Made In Scotland showcase was founded three years ago to
support home-grown theatre and dance companies who wished to perform on
the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before a host of international promoters,
no-one really knew what to expect. Since then, not only has the strike
rate been high in terms of work picked up, but it is work which only a
few years ago for it to be produced within a Scottish context would
have been nigh-on unthinkable. Shows like Cora Bissett's site-specific
sex-trafficking drama, Roadkill, and David Leddy's labyrinthine
back-stage tour, Sub-Rosa, speak volumes about how much theatre-making
in Scotland has raised the level of its game in terms of scope and
imagination.

Funded by the Scottish Government's Expo fund, Made in Scotland has
developed it's remit this year as well to include a new Scottish
Performing Arts Symposium and Promoter Plus, a means of pairing
international promoters with at the very least a guaranteed five
[pieces of work.

“These new initiatives are specifically aimed at promoters,” explains
Federation of Scottish Theatre director Jon Morgan, “in terms of
finding out what the arts in Scotland are about and how they're being
developed.”

While some of the seventeen works selected by a panel of theatre
professionals have already been road-tested, some, including Grid
Iron's new show, What Remains, have yet to be seen.

“That's a calculated risk,” according to Morgan, “and it's one that
makes things exciting, because, while we know the company's work, we
won't know what this show will be like until we see it.”

With one year's Expo funding left to run, Made in Scotland is clearly
paying dividends. Yet, while Morgan is confident of the showcase’s
future, he is also keen to point up this country's already thriving
theatrical infrastructure that shapes it.

“Made in Scotland is a really important initiative,” he says, “but it
couldn't happen if there wasn't already serious investment in the arts
in Scotland. That's what we want to make our masters aware of, that
this couldn't happen if there wasn't already some remarkable work being
developed. Something like Nic Green's Trilogy, which was an
extraordinary piece of work, and which was quite rightly included in
Made in Scotland, that would have happened anyway. What I like about
Made in Scotland is that it feels quite democratic, and that off-radar
artists can get a platform, which is why it's important that funders
continue to support places like the Arches, where Trilogy was first
developed.”

One of the main beneficiaries of Made in Scotland 2011 is Remarkable
Arts, the fledgling Edinburgh-based organisation who last year took
over Hill Street Theatre, and this year expand into St George's West.
Despite being one of the newest kids on the block, Remarkable Arts find
themselves hosting an unprecedented eight shows across both of their
venues out of Made in Scotland's total of seventeen. These range from a
revival of the Citizens Theatre's production of One Million Tiny Plays
About Britain, a compendium of miniatures based on a newspaper column,
to work by left-field companies Fish and game and Poorboy. Also
featured is Untitled Love Story, the latest piece by Leddy, whose
influence on how Remarkable Arts is perceived might well prove to be
crucial.

It was the challenges faced in housing Sub-Rosa, which required an
entire wall full of venue posters to be taken down and put back up
every day in order to accommodate it, that arguably convinced other
Made in Scotland recipients that Remarkable were committed and credible
enough to be approached.

“It was a big commitment,” admits Remarkable Arts artistic director Tim
Hawkins, “but it was worth it.”

This is a typical statement by Hawkins, who set up Remarkable Arts with
associate producer Dani Rae in 2010.

“The idea of setting up Remarkable was to be a producer of remarkable
work,” Hawkins explains, “and not do fringe-lite, where people have to
cut down their shows. That seems to be a negation of the whole fringe
process. I want the work we put on at Remarkable to be ambitious, and
we try to make our guarantees fairer to companies coming in than maybe
some venues operate. With that in mind our first year was quite
successful, in that we didn't make any money, but we didn't lose any
either.”

The spate of Made in Scotland shows rushing to Remarkable Arts may be
in part down to the Sub-Rosa factor, but experience counts as well.
Rather than a new kid on the block, Hawkins has almost thirty years
previous running Fringe venues including Old St Paul's, the Roman Eagle
Lodge and indeed Hill Street with its former residents Universal Arts.
Hawkins was also a partner in the much missed Aurora Nova venue based
at St Stephen's church in Stockbridge.

“The great tragedy about Aurora Nova, “ Hawkins points out, “is that no
matter how successful it was and how acclaimed it was, there weren't
enough seats.”

Beyond Made in Scotland, Remarkable's programme of forty-four shows
includes White Rabbit Red Rabbit, a co-production between Remarkable,
Canada's Volcano company and former Aurora Nova director Wolfgang
Hoffmann, and Audience, the latest intimate one-to-one experience from
Belgian company Ontroerend Goed. Also in the frame is Viewless, a new
piece created by the increasingly ambitious Cumbernauld Theatre.

One Scottish show appearing in the Remarkable programme but not part of
Made in Scotland is Orlando, the Glasgow-based Cryptic company's
heartstoppingly sensual multi-media adaptation of Virginia Woolf's
gender-bending ode to a lover. Arguably the best thing Cryptic has done
in the company's colourful history, Orlando's exclusion from Made in
Scotland is baffling, and proves that, even with such a high-calibre
programme as this year's, Made in Scotland isn't foolproof.

“One of the things not well known,” Morgan points out, “is that there
is an additional touring fund available, not just for Made in Scotland
shows, but for any Scottish company in the Fringe. In a way that
acknowledges that we’re not perfect and might have missed something.”

This is something organisations like Remarkable Arts can capitalise on.
As for the future, with or without Made in Scotland, in the current
economic climate it's as certain as anything else.

“If you've got great shows you hope everything else will take care of
itself,” Hawkins says. “It's always a gamble, but if you get
interesting companies coming to you, you've got to trust there's an
audience for it.”

www.madeinscotland2011.com
www.remarkable-arts.com

The Herald, August 28th 2011

ends

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