Theatre at Previously… history fest

October 29, 2013 | By | Reply More
History takes centre stage, and it’s theatrical too
Contemporary history: Singing' I'm No A Billy, He's a Tim by Black Dingo Productions. Photo © Jasmin Egner

Contemporary history: Singing’ I’m No A Billy, He’s a Tim by Black Dingo Productions. Photo © Jasmin Egner

By Thom Dibdin

History is no longer “bunk”, thanks to the fantastically inventive festival Previously… running 13 – 30 November, which was created and championed in Edinburgh by Susan Morrison.

Previously… is the kind of game-changing event that firmly refutes Henry Ford’s inflammatory remark. Indeed far from being bunk (an archaic contraction of bunkum, meaning claptrap or sophistry) the 18 day programme is all about history as a relevant, living thing.

This history is not something which happened to other people. Indeed, the inclusion of events such as Bars, Ballrooms & Basslines – a panel event “investigating the impact of dance music on Scotland’s people and communities” – shows that it is about what is happening to us now.

And in amongst everything else, theatre has its own place. Not, perhaps, as much as it might – yet – but there are several chances to see theatre in the programme and to see the impact that it has had.

In amongst the celebrations of Robert Louise Stevenson’s anniversary on November 13, a school is creating scenery and characters to fit a model theatre, using descriptive passages from the swashbuckling adventure story Treasure Island. This is in recognition that, as a boy, RLS loved to play with a toy theatre that inspired him to write his own plays and stories. These will be on display at the Writers Museum from the 14th.

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil

On the 16th of November, scenery which would be more suitable to Kidnapped will be on display, when the Filmhouse gives a rare screening of The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil. Filmed by the BBC in 1974 as part of their Play for Today strand and an adaptation of 7:84’s famous play of the same name, this will be great chance to see the whole thing in a continuous showing – hopefully with correct aspect ratio unlike the various clips on Youtube.

Later in the month, three of the plays which featured in the Just Festival during this year’s fringe return for one-off performances at Adam House. Jennifer Adam’s Kiss Cuddle Torture is on the 19th, followed by Singin I’m No a Bill, He’s a Tim on the same night. Jen McGregor’s Creepie Stool, about Jenny Geddes, returns on the 20th with McGregor taking over as director with Jasmin Egner joining the cast.

On the afternoon of the 23rd, We had a story, we had a life is a fascinating use of historical documents and contemporary theatre. Scotland’s archives have been data-mined to reveal the words of young people speaking about their lives in 18th century. These have been used by youngsters of similar ages to create a piece of theatre that brings those times to life.

Also at Adam House Jen McGregor’s Tightlaced Theatre returns with a revival of last year’s I Promise I Shall Not Play Billiards (although billed simply as Billiards). About Madeleine Smith, accused of murdering her lover, but given the uniquely Scottish verdict of ‘not proven’. Playing at various times from 21-23 November, the final performance will be followed by a Q&A chaired by Susan Morrison.

Back up at the Writers’ Museum, there are four performances (19-22 November) of Theatre Tusitala’s My own, my Native Land. A selection of stories, poems and songs from the works of Walter Scott which highlight some of the characters and events that shaped a nation.

And on St Andrews Day, the final day of the festival, The Flyting at the City Chambers recreates the mighty poetic battle between William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy, two makars at the court of James IV. Then, in what is billed as “the poetic equivalent of a WWF smackdown”, Walter Kennedy is hurled forward in time to come face to face with the formidably talented AL Kennedy, who is “stropping her verbal talons” to take on and flyte against the 16th century poet.

All great stuff. And this just a taster of the 274 events organised in this, the third year, of the festival.

Full details on the Previously website: www.historyfest.co.uk
Or click here: to download a pdf of the programme (4MB)

Previously… Theatre-related Listings 2013:
  • Spectacular Toy Theatre
    14 – 30 Nov  10am-5pm.
    The Writers’ Museum, Lady Stair’s Close, Edinburgh EH1 2PA
    As a boy, Robert Louis Stevenson loved to play with a toy theatre that inspired him to write his own plays and stories. To celebrate Stevenson’s birthday on 13 November, a local school will create stunning scenery and characters to fit a model theatre, using descriptive passages from the swashbuckling adventure story ‘Treasure Island’. Come along to the Writer’s Museum and see the children’s amazing creative work from 14 November onwards.
    Free event. Drop in, no booking necessary.
  • The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil
    16 November 2013. 1pm
    The Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road Edinburgh EH3 9BZ
    (John Mackenzie, UK 1974), Digibeta, 90 minutes, Rated 12A
    Cast: Bill Paterson, Alex Norton, Timothy Martin, Elizabeth MacLennan, John Bett.
    A rare chance to see The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, filmed by the BBC in 1974 as part of their Play for Today strand and an adaptation of the infamous Scottish play of the same name. Written by John McGrath, the play was originally staged by the 7:84 Theatre Company (so called because of the fact that 84% of Scotland’s wealth is held by 7% of the population). The play compares the Highland Clearances and the ownership of Scottish land by the gentry with the hot topic (in the early 1970s at least) of US ownership of Scotland’s oil fields.
    Tickets: www.filmhousecinema.com.
    The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil on Youtube: www.youtube.com
  • Theatre Tusitala presents: My own, my Native Land
    Tue 19-Fri 22 November 5.15pm.
    The Writers’ Museum, Lady Stair’s Close, Edinburgh EH1 2PA
    Scott’s writing re-kindled nationalist pride and resurrected the Scottish identity: “By such efforts, feeble as they are, I may contribute somewhat to the history of my native country; the peculiar features of whose manners and characters are daily melting and dissolving into those of her sister and ally”. Following on from their highly successful “Charlotte’s Heart” Theatre Tusitala present a selection of stories, poems and songs from the works of Walter Scott which highlight some of the characters and events that shaped a nation. Pre-booking is necessary.
    Free event. Pre-booking essential . For further information and booking please contact Margaret Findlay, Public Programmes Manager on 0131 529 3963, e-mail Margaret.findlay@edinburgh.gov.uk
  • Kiss, Cuddle, Torture
    Tuesday 19 November, 7pm.
    Adam House, 3 Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HT
    In a town known for its social and religious issues, three women battling their own demons at home, face the possibility of being expelled from their only refuge – the cold and crumbling school building where they work. Bonding over relationships, children and the importance of wearing marigolds, Lynn, Sue and Lucy are pushed to breaking point, forcing them into a life on the edge of escape. The debut full-length play from emerging Edinburgh playwright, Jennifer Adam.
    See Æ review: www.AllEdinburghTheatre.com
    £10 / £8 Book online at prevhistfest.eventbrite.co.uk
  • Singin I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim
    Tue 19 Nov: 8.30pm.
    Adam House 3 Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HT
    Derby day, one Rangers fan, one Celtic fan, a single jail cell. The match isn’t the only thing that will kick off. Being locked up during the most important football match is no laughing matter. Harry, a turnkey, barely keeps the peace as the boys verbally spar and spit, while dealing with his own potential tragedy. Des Dillon’s funny take on the age-old issue of sectarianism and bigotry.
    See Æ review: www.AllEdinburghTheatre.com
    £10 / £8 Book online at prevhistfest.eventbrite.co.uk
  • Creepie Stool
    Weds 20 November: 7.30pm.
    Adam House, 3 Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HT
    Edinburgh, 24 July 1637, Jenny Geddes flings a stool at a minister and starts a riot in St Giles, a three-day brawl and, indirectly, the Covenanters’ War. While differing ideologies clash violently on the city’s streets, Jenny’s employer demands an explanation – leading to unwelcome discoveries behind closed doors. A story of secrets, lies, inept leadership, early Scottish sectarianism, and the uncontrollable consequences of a single act of defiance. Inspired by a true story.
    See Æ review: www.AllEdinburghTheatre.com
    £10 / £8 Book online at prevhistfest.eventbrite.co.uk/
  • Billiards
    Thurs 21 Nov, 7.30pm; Fri 22 5.30pm; Sat 23: 7.30pm followed by Q&A.
    Adam House, 3 Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HT
    Tightlaced Theatre presents Edinburgh playwright Fiona McDonald’s award-nominated play. It’s 1857. Madeleine Smith has just stood trial for her life, accused of poisoning her lover. Given the uniquely Scottish verdict of ‘not proven’ she is free from prison – but not from suspicion. Madeleine’s public and private personae gather to tell their stories, leaving the audience to reach their own conclusions about her innocence or guilt.
    See Æ review: www.AllEdinburghTheatre.com
    £10 / £8 Book online at prevhistfest.eventbrite.co.uk
  • We had a story, we had a life
    Sat 23 Nov. 1pm.
    Adam House, 3 Chambers Street edinburgh EH1 1HR
    In a groundbreaking partnership, post-graduate students at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh data-mined Scotland’s archives to reveal the words of young people speaking about their lives in 18th century. They brought their findings to young people of a similar age working with Impact Arts, an outstanding charity dedicated to changing people’s lives for the better using the arts, and together they have created a unique and moving theatre piece to bring the past back to life.
    Free event Book online at prevhistfest.eventbrite.co.uk
  • The Flyting
    Sat 30 Nov. 7.30pm.
    The City Chambers, High Street Edinburgh EH1 1YJ
    For the third roaring year we recreate the mighty poetic battle between Dunbar and Kennedy, two makars at the court of James IV, this year in the stunning surroundings of the European Room in the City Chambers. What better way to celebrate this most cultured of kings but with a glass of wine and some dainty comestibles (included in the ticket price)? Dr Katie Stevenson will take us though the world and court of Scotland’s rock star monarch whilst Chris Robinson illuminates the glory of the Scots language. Our poets, Dunbar and Kennedy, will once again cross verbal swords in an excerpt of The Flyting, but then, Walter Kennedy will find himself hurled forward in time to the 21st century – to come face to face with the formidably talented AL Kennedy, who is stropping her verbal talons to take on and flyte against the 16th century poet. The Flyting of Kennedy and Dunbar. The Flying of Kennedy and Kennedy. It’s the poetic equivalent of a WWF smackdown. Thanks to the offices of the Lord and Depute Provost their aid with this event.
    £15.00 Book online at prevhistfest.eventbrite.co.uk

ENDS

ENDS

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