Skip to main content

Sports Day - Guy Hollands on Commonwealth and the community

The opening of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month has
inspired a welter of extra-curricular artistic activity. One of the
first out of the traps is Sports Day, a huge community show at the
city's Citizens Theatre, which features a compendium of new short
pieces penned by major Scottish writers, including Peter Arnott, Linda
McLean, Douglas Maxwell and Julia Taudevin, all based around a school
sports day. These will be accompanied by a series of new songs written
by equally major song-writers and musicians such as Vaselines vocalist
Eugene Kelly, Sparrow and the Workshop's Jill O'Sullivan, John Kielty
and Claire McKenzie. All this will be linked by a series of scenes
featuring River City star Joyce Falconer as the school's janitor.

For anyone studying the form, the stats go like this. Sixty
non-professional performers drawn from assorted Citizens-based
community groups will perform some seventeen new plays accompanied by
twelve brand new songs. With only four weeks rehearsal to play with,
putting Sports Day together has been something of a Herculean task.

“It's a lot of stuff,” says Citizens associate director Guy Hollands,
who oversees the theatre's Citizens Learning community arm, and is
co-directing Sports Day with the theatre's Community Drama Director,
Neil Packham. “It obviously started out as a response to the
Commonwealth Games, but I also wanted an opportunity to bring together
all of the different groups that already exist in the building, and to
try and get them to inter-mingle somehow, rather than just going away
after their classes.

“I originally wanted Sports Day to be a revue-style piece, so I emailed
a load of writers and asked them if they'd be interested in writing a
piece about a school sports day, which is something people tend to have
fairly distinct memories of in one way or another. Everyone seemed to
have a story about it, both positively and negatively, and I was quite
surprised to see what came back.”

With assorted responses to Hollands' brief looking variously at
preparations for the day to the races themselves, a rough chronology
developed, that saw teachers, parents and pupil athletes all in the
frame. One play even looks at the plight of a family trying to raise
money for a new pair of training shoes in order for their child to
participate in the day.

“We wanted Sports Day to be largely celebratory,” Hollands points out,
“and to celebrate the power of community spirit in sport. Douglas
Maxwell's piece is a beautiful short play, and is probably the most
hard-hitting of them all, but on the whole we wanted to keep things
light.”

Such a spirit of celebration will almost certainly be enlivened by the
presence of Falconer, whose deadpan Doric tones are best known to
viewers of River City from her long stint as Roisin Henderson.

“We've worked with Joyce before,” says Hollands, “and we knew she was
right for this part. She's someone who everyone knows from seeing her
in River City, and is totally the right kind of person for the role.”

While there will be some interaction between Falconer's janitor and a
not entirely sympathetic head teacher, the majority of her scenes will
see her onstage alone. A mean accordion player, Falconer will also take
part in the show's musical interludes.

These were initially co-ordinated by theatre composer and former member
of the group, Zoey Van Goey, MJ McCarthy, and will be performed by the
cast alongside a live band.

“One song was written especially for Joyce,” says Hollands, “but it's
been an interesting process, and I think we discovered that writing a
song perhaps needs more time invested in it than we originally thought.
For the artists who come from the indie world, it's a very different
thing for them to be doing, because they have to be songs written to be
sung in unison. All three of those songs have a really unique take on
things, and really fit in well with the whole tone of the piece.”

While scheduling rehearsals for Sports Day has been something of a
logistical nightmare, with proceedings being scheduled around the
performers day jobs and other commitments, it has been the show's
musical aspects that has united the company.

“It's really enjoyable to sing together,” Hollands observes, “and that
all ties in with the explosion of community choirs. Working on Sports
Day, I've witnessed it myself how much you can bond through singing. 
That's the only time in rehearsals we've had the full company together,
and that has become a really important part of the process. The mood in
the room when everyone gets together like that is just electric.”

If the music of Sports Day has acted as a unifying force, there is an
even bigger message that comes from the theme of sport itself.
“I believe in sport,” says Hollands. “Personally I think art and sport
are very similar in lots of relative ways. There's a very obvious sense
of play in both art and sport, but there are also similarities in terms
of well-being and giving people the opportunity to achieve something,
and to express themselves in some way.”

Given how the performers in Sports Day have come from several different
groups as well as the subject of the piece, one wonders whether any
sense of competitive rivalry has crept into proceedings. Hollands,
however, suggests team work has been paramount throughout rehearsals.

“We want to achieve the highest quality production we can,” he says,
“and for that to happen people have got to work together. A major part
of Sports Day is about personal growth and personal expression, and for
the Citizens it's making an important statement about the value of
community work, and where we place it in our portfolio.”

Whatever the result of Sports Day, then, it's the taking part that
counts.

Sports Day, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, June 4-7.
www.citz.co.uk

This Sporting Life – Sport onstage

The Changing Room - David Storey
Storey's look at life among a semi-pro rugby team before, during and
after a game opened at the Royal Court Theatre in 1971 in a production
by Lindsay Anderson, and was revived by Michael Rudman in 1996 as part
of a Royal Court classics season.

Tuebrook Tanzi – Clare Luckham
Luckham's 1978 feminist play about a young woman's desire to be a
wrestler was performed in an actual wrestling ring, with the cast
hurling each other around over a series of rounds. Originally known as
Tuebrook Tanzi – The Venus Flytrap, the play toured Liverpool clubs,
and was filmed by the BBC in front of a live wrestling audience. As
Trafford Tanzi, the play was revived at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre,
while later productions starred Toyah Wilcox and, in America, Blondie's
Debbie Harry and comedian Andy Kaufman.

Up 'n' Under – John Godber
Rugby again featured in Godber's play, first produced by Hull Truck in
1984, which looked at a ramshackle pub team who are turned into
champions by a female trainer. The play picked up an Olivier award for
best new play, and inspired a sequel, Up 'n' Under 2, as well as a film
version in 1998 starring Neil Morrissey.

The Celtic Story/The Rangers Story/We Are The Hibees
There were a spate of popular football plays several years ago, which
played to packed houses of football fans, who cheered on the history of
their particular team told through a series of iconic moments.

The Herald, June 3rd 2014


ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…