New theatre is Discover 21

Nov 3 2013 | By More

New studio theatre opens at Art’s Complex

By Thom Dibdin

The Art's Complex - home to Discover 21, Edinburgh's newest studio theatre. Photo © Thom Dibdin

The Art’s Complex – home to Discover 21, Edinburgh’s newest studio theatre. Photo © Thom Dibdin

Discover 21, a new 35 seat studio theatre run by local shoestring companies Tightlaced Theatre and Black Dingo Productions has opened at the Art’s Complex in Edinburgh.

The name for the new space was revealed at a performance and party at the venue on Saturday night, with excerpts from plays to be performed at the space and poems from the triumphant University of Edinburgh poetry slam team.

The evening was hosted by Jen McGregor, founder of Tightlaced, and David McFarlane, founder of Black Dingo.

Jen McGregor told Æ that it has always been her plan to use the studio space as a theatre since taking it over in 2011.

She said: “We have used it for rehearsed readings and small scale tryouts for things but we have never operated it as a proper theatre, we have gone on to other places to perform. Mostly because of the organisation and cost involved in getting this up and running. Dave is much better at dealing with that kind of thing than I am.

“Black Dingo and Tightlaced are separate but collaborative in this. I keep him supplied with people and things to do and all that kind of thing. He comes up with even more ideas and makes things harder for himself and organises things, which is great.”

Speaking of the new name, David McFarlane said it partly came from the studio number, G21, and as Jen McGregor is from Dundee, the city of discovery.

He added: “Discover fits well with what we are trying to do which is to get new writing, new theatre out to new audiences. Maybe people who aren’t so willing to pay £40 or even £15 for a play, will be happy to pay a fiver for a night out with us.”

As a producer, Black Dingo brings a fringe aesthetic to year-round Edinburgh theatre. Without trying to be fancy or flash, it understands its financial limitations but aims to make theatre and help other groups make theatre to as high a quality as possibly, in the space they have.

Free parking

“We are looking to expand up to 45/50 seats,” McFarlane said. “With a little bit of structural rejigging we can get it up to a bank of seats all the way along. There is also free parking at Art’s Complex, which is on four major bus routes. We don’t have a bar so people can bring a bottle, so for a fiver you can get a great night out!”

As a co-producer of incoming theatre, Black Dingo has brought basic modular facilities to the space. Everything can be broken down and moved to another location if needed. It has all been accomplished without any subsidy and McFarlane’s ambition is to allow the theatre to grow organically in size and facilities.

Speaking of the Art’s Complex itself, McFarlane said: “It is a fantastic innovation from Edinburgh city council. They had these buildings that they had no other use for and couldn’t find a use for, weren’t functional for anything else, so what they did was let it out to artists.

“A couple of guys took it over, they turned it into spaces that people could use, and now there is everything artistically you could imagine here. Ceramic artists, costume designers, fashionistas, photographers, theatre companies – it is a completely and totally integrated space.”

Discover 21 opens for business on Thursday 7 November 2013 with Globophobia. Later in the month there will be a mammoth “21 plays in three days” event.

“We programme plays for the Jo Caulfield’s Speakeasy,” McFarlane explains. “We take a lot plays and monologues and get people to perform at Jo Caulfield’s event at the Storytelling centre. What I thought would be to get a whole heap of short plays, writers, actors and directors in a room and pick the best 21. We will then put them on over three days and the best seven will be chosen for the Speakeasy.”

Thurs 7 – Sat 9 November 2013; 7.30pm (90 minutes).
Discover 21, Art’s Complex, St. Margaret’s House, 151 London Road, EH7 6AE
Tickets £5. Advance tickets from


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