Homecoming News: The Walking Theatre Company

Item Posted: Sunday 7th December, 2008

Theatre and the Homecoming

One Cowal based group who has been able to greatly increase their value to communities in the area, and around Scotland, as a result of Homecoming 2009
is The Walking Theatre Company.

Specialising in creating interactive plays inspired by community stories and historical events they fall comfortably into the objectives of Homecoming. In Argyll and Bute, as part of the year long celebrations, this team of seven professional actors are developing their existing work with the Lismore Youth Theatre Company to write and perform ‘Coming Home Again’, a play seen through the eyes of locals during the Armistice celebrations. Sadie Dixon-Spain, the co-founder of the group told me:
‘The youth group become paid apprentices, and are very much part of the team. We are sure they will find that working with a sustainable professional company exciting, and learn some of the nuts and bolts of theatre work, and even – maybe – how to make a living in the theatre! We hope that this Homecoming project can result in enjoyable theatre for the community, and in some of the youth group receiving provisional equity cards.’

Robert the Bruce will be an obvious attraction to Homecoming tourists, and the Theatre is working with the MacDougal Trust in Oban on a theatre event ‘The Hidden Jewel’ about his links with the family, and the mystery of the family legacy of the ‘Broach of Lorn’, considered one of our national treasures. A theatre walk will incorporate the old castle and Dunollie House, and help raise the profile of the site and help the Trust’s aim to open the site as a heritage site and visitor attraction.

For the Spirit of the West Festival at Inveraray Castle in May audiences will be regaled with the story of whisky and the tax laws, a 150 year battle- even sometimes a bloody one – between Scotland and England after the Act of Union. An intrepid tale of highland smuggling. Outside Argyll the company is also creating projects this year in Clackmannanshire, and with the Neilston Development Trust.

In Cowal the company may be best known through its involvement in Cowalfest when they co-ordinated theatre walks in the grounds of castles and mansions of Argyll. They are clearly a group who believe that the surroundings of fine architecture and glorious landscape add immeasurably to the theatrical experience for the audience. They also devised and inspired a piece - the tale of ‘Deirdre of the Sorrows’ and her history in Scotland, The tale is based on in the recently discovered Glen Massen Manuscripts, which gives a Scottish retort to an Irish story, and paints a vivid picture of a strong vibrant woman who came to Argyll to find peace with her lover
For Cowalfest 2009 the company plans three night torchlit Shakespeare events, playing a different play each night around the Heritage Walk at Dunans Castle, with the support of the Dunans Charitable Trust.

The Theatre has already received public recognition, being the only company in Argyll short listed for a Highlands and Islands Tourism Award. Sadie Dixon- Spain concludes: ‘We were thrilled to be shortlisted for this award. The publicity around the award helped raise the profile of Cowal and Argyll as a destination and an area of creativity, surely matching the goals of Argyll and Bute Council and of Homecoming 2009. One great benefit of Homecoming for us was that we did not have to apply for grants. Each project raised the money and then took us on to deliver –leaving us free for the creative stuff, which is really what we enjoy! Homecoming has allowed us to focus on a community based expansion programme that will we believe will help tourism, local business and add to the cultural life of the areas we are working in.’

A theatre company that recently managed to persuade Alex Salmond to be Banquo in their truncated version of ‘Macbeth’ clearly is going places!

For more information:
Spirit of the West Festival www.spiritofthewest.co.uk.
Cowalfest www.cowalfest.org
The Walking Theatre Company www.thewalkingtheatrecompany.com
MacDougal Trust email c.gillies@tiscali.co.uk

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