Scottish theatre on Isle of Mull launches digital platform

Two short plays examining themes of love, imagination and connection will launch an exciting new digital season, 'Emergence' for An Tobar & Mull Theatre.

Promoted by Mull Theatre
Monday, 5th October 2020, 11:29 am
Simon Donaldson. Picture by Sarah Darling
Simon Donaldson. Picture by Sarah Darling

An entirely online experience, 'Emergence' will introduce a selection of newly filmed works of theatre, music and visual arts, direct from An Tobar & Mull Theatre in Tobermory. The introduction to this season includes two pieces of new writing, 'Strange Rocks,' by Oliver Emanuel, and 'Undocumented' by Anita Vettesse.

'Strange Rocks' tells the story of two strangers recounting their past to one another over one night, as they struggle to imagine what the future might hold. 'Undocumented' is a story of hope and love as two people try to let go of the past.

“The plays will reflect issues and broader themes of what everyone has been going through this half a year, but also, they are hopeful stories about our need to connect. They're of their time. Hopefully, the output of the work will also feel like we've captured something of its time,” explained Beth Morton, Mull Theatre Director, who is directing both plays for their two-week run from Tuesday, October 13 to Tuesday, October 27.

Mull Theatre presents Strange Rocks by Oliver Emanuel. Photograph by Sarah Darling Photography

Certainly the methodology behind the creation of the works is unique to this era.

Beth said: “We were fortunate – our cast members are a couple (acclaimed actors, Ashley Smith and Simon Donaldson), so they live together. At the start of the process we moved next door to the theatre, and the four of us (cinematographer and lighting designer Jamie Wardrop) formed a bubble. From a safety perspective, it was only ever the four of us at one time rehearsing and filming the plays together,” said Beth.

While, “safety was always at the forefront of our mind,” Beth observed the experience has been richly rewarding for all involved. “I was brought on as the theatre director in April, when the world looked completely different. Our plans had to change rapidly . . . now, we're just all so delighted to be back in the rehearsal room. We're so grateful to be making work.”

“This was a work born of passion,” says Beth. “We felt we should by trying to make new work during this, that we could and should take a risk. It isn't always about remounting work that's been done before: new work should still be created. It is important to support new writing and new plays. This is an emotionally and psychologically difficult time for everyone, so we wanted to form a community of artists supporting each other to take risks.”

The two plays are distinctly theatrical pieces, even though they will be broadcast online.

While filming at Mull Theatre is by cinematographer Jamie Wardrop working in the space, at An Tobar the method of filming is ingenious, again ensuring the safety of those involved and optimising social distancing.

“We are using a remote filming production facility, which means people can come here and work, be filmed, but not have to meet with other people,” explained Gordon Maclean, CEO of An Tobar and Mull Theatre.

“We have five cameras that are manned remotely by a production team in Perth. They can move, pull focus, and the team can then do a live cut from Perth of the performance.”

“Obviously the only way forward at the moment for the arts is to move everything online,” said Gordon, noting the organisation will work to exhibit work within three art forms, music, theatre, and the visual arts.

“All the bigger organisations are doing the same thing, such as National Theatre of Scotland, Biffy Clyro did an online show. We felt we had to do something similar as a means of keeping things working.”

An Tobar & Mull Theatre's online platform is focused on providing new work for the public to enjoy from the safety of their home, but Gordon is keen to highlight that it's also to provide the opportunity for artists and crew members – “these are freelance workers,” Gordon pointed out, “whose entire livelihood has been threatened by the virus.”

He raises the point that many of the larger arts organisations across the country have put out work online without charging for it, while he is keen to emphasise that “If you want to experience quality art, you have to support it financially as well, you really should.”

Audience members are able to purchase tickets to the two-week run of ‘Strange Rocks’ and ‘Undocumented’ through An Tobar & Mull Theatre’s website (www.comar.co.uk). The show will be running from Tuesday, October 13 – Tuesday, October 27. Once a ticket is purchased, audience members will be able to watch a link to the show online for 24 hours.

The 'Emergence' season will exhibit new Scottish art, theatre, and music. For updates and new details on future shows, keep an eye on their social media channels: Facebook @MullTheatre, Twitter @TheatreMull, and Instagram @mulltheatre & @antobararts.

Tickets can be booked in advance from: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/emergence