Today’s announcement by the National Theatre of Scotland of their Bank of Scotland Emerge Programme for developing theatre artists and directors follows on from two similar initiatives last year. Then, artists such as novelist and playwright Alan Bissett, performer and writer Molly Taylor and director Amanda Gaughan came through what were then known as the New Directors Placement Programme and the Emerging Artists Attachment Programme. While the component parts of both schemes remain in place, the new catch-all umbrella title gives things a sense of unity as well as acknowledging the sort of crossovers between disciplines which, in the current economic and artistic climate, are more prevalent than ever. While the three emerging directors will or have already worked as assistant directors on major NTS productions, the four emerging directors will focus on developing pieces that will be presented as rough works in progress at Scratch night this coming July. For NTS Artistic Development producer Caroline Newall, who has overseen the scheme, it is vital that the seven artists chosen for each strand are given time and space to develop their work in an open environment. “It’s about giving the space to on their own journey, really,” she says, “and, rather than giving any specific commissions, to give them the time to work on their craft. We’ve also tried to open things out to different disciplines, while as far as the young directors go, whereas before they mainly came through the Regional Young Directors Scheme, which was great, now we’re able to develop relationships with them over a longer period.” While Deborah Hannan has already assisted on the site-specific verbatim piece, Enquirer and Rob Jones on Alan Cumming’s tour de force as Macbeth, Sarah Macdonald will work alongside director Cora Bissett on her forthcoming Glasgow-based contemporary musical, Glasgow Girls. The emerging artists, meanwhile, finds writer/performer Martin O’Connor developing a piece called A Govan of the Mind that looks at both religion and the Scots language, while Adura Onashile, best known as an actress in Roadkill, is planning her own site-specific piece, Ghosts of Glasgow. Of the two Gaelic artists, Catriona Lexy Campbell has an already established relationship with the NTS via her year-long tenure as Gaelic associate artist. During that time, Campbell was instrumental in discovering her fellow recipient of the Bank of Scotland Emerge Programme, Eilidh Daniels, via a solo bi-lingual piece she performed, Zona Morriate. “I want to explore what I can do with contemporary Gaelic theatre,” Daniels explains. “Some people who don’t know about Gaelic theatre think it’s all about the old stories, and while I don’t want to forget that, I also want to try and bring things forward.” Campbell is a useful creative ally in this respect, especially given her to approach Gaelic dialogue “as a creative thing rather than a purely political thing. This scheme is a chance to develop my writing for a piece I’ll be performing myself, so I’ll have writing time, and I also want to work with a magician.” Language is important too for O‘Connor, who has been devising and performing his own work, which includes Inner Circle, a piece performed on a Glasgow Underground train, for some years now. “I’ve been looking at Scottish ballads,” he explains, “and want to give more consideration to the fact that our language is quite cool. By the same token, a lot of religious language doesn’t really mean anything anymore.” A similar juxtaposition can be found in Onashile’s proposed piece, which aims to explore “architecture and the dynamism of street-life in various buildings in Glasgow.” On the directors side of things, Jones’ experience running his Flatrate company as well as organising a cabaret club at Summerhall during this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe looks set to be galvanised by his experience on Macbeth. “There are a lot of people who want to work in this industry who think it’s all a bit mystical,” he says, “but after working with John Tiffany on Macbeth for two months, you realise it’s all about craft and hard work.” This was the case too for Hannan, whose first task on Enquirer was to listen to all forty-three interviews that fed into the play’s collage-like script. “I’m really interested in spectacle,” she says, “and working in different spaces in a visual and politically motivated way, so Enquirer was perfect for me.” As for Macdonald, Glasgow Girls, which looks at the real-life experience of a group of teenage asylum seekers, her placement too has been carefully thought out. “I work with a lot of youth and community groups,” she explains, “and young people get such a bad press, so to work on something that presents a positive picture is really important.” While the NTS provide the artistic skill-set to develop these talents on a practical level, the Bank of Scotland’s ongoing support for the NTS schemes remain crucial, as Newall notes. “Of the many things the Bank of Scotland give the NTS support for, I think supporting emerging talent in this way is the one that floats their boat the most,” she says.
Susan Rice, Managing Director of Lloyds Banking Group, confirms what Newall says.
"Through Bank of Scotland's Pioneering Partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland, we support the next generation of theatrical talent. We're always excited when we meet one of these new directors or aspiring artists. For some, our support is the only way they can manage to continue learning and gaining experience. It’s truly gratifying to be part of their journey with this focus on emerging talent, which sits in the core of our relationship with NTS.”
Newall expands on this.
“The NTS should and does produce work by leading artists in their field,” she says, “but we also need to work out who the lead artists will be in five or ten years’ time. So the Bank of Scotland Emerge scheme is an instructive thing about where the talent lies, then enabling that talent to develop their potential as well as developing an ongoing relationship with the NTS. We’ll always be here as mentors.” A Bank of Scotland Emerge Programme Scratch Night will take place at the CCA, Glasgow on July 20th. www.nationaltheatrescotland.com The Herald, June 26th 2012 ends