New Christmas film created inside Scottish castle to get surprise cinema release

A new festive film is to be made inside one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks and released in the nation’s cinemas just before Christmas.

Rapunzel will be released in cinemas on 22 December.
Rapunzel will be released in cinemas on 22 December.

A new musical version of the classic fairytale Rapunzel is being created at Stirling Castle to help fill the gap created by the cancellation of Christmas pantomimes across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Theatre of Scotland is joining forces with government agency Historic Environment Scotland for the first time to make the film, which will get a limited cinema release on 22 December and will be available for streaming online from 23 December.

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The creation of Rapunzel, which will see rising star Amber Sylvia Edwards play the lead role, is being led by writer and director Johnny McKnight, one of Scotland’s best-known panto-makers, whose previous productions include Alice in Weegieland, Weans in the Wood, The Snaw Queen and Chick Whittington.

The National Theatre of Scotland said Rapunzel would be “a celebration of theatricality, music and storytelling and a chance to hear from every character in this well-known hairy tale, untangled and re-braided for this day and age.”

The new film is part of the theatre company’s “digital Christmas” line-up, which will see comic and actress Janey Godley reprises the character she created for the two short films she made for NTS earlier this year.

McKnight, who is making the film with BAFTA Scotland-nominated director Stewart Kyasimire, is joining forces with an all-female writing team of Apphia Campbell, Uma Nada-Raja, Morna Pearson, Stef Smith, Meghan Tyler, and Anita Vettesse.

The film will feature a clutch of new “show tunes” created by Nova Sound, a writing duo formed by singer-songwriter Lauren Gilmour and drummer-producer Audrey Tait.

McKnight, will also play The Narrator, Paige Oootbaook, with the character also being reprised for an alternative Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day for reflections on the “annus haribo-eatis.”

McKnight said: “You all know the story of Rapunzel, right? That lassie with the long hair who’s been trapped in her lockdown tower for what feels like forever.

"The lassie who’s sitting there like a loon waiting for some Prince will come along and save her. Well, think again.

"Cos I bet nobody mentioned the hairdresser who made it her life’s mission to track Rapunzel down? Or Rapunzel’s twin brother who’s terrified he’s going to have to take the throne if his sister isn’t found?

Writer-director Johnny McKnight at Stirling Castle, where Rapunzel is being made. Picture: Drew Farrell

"And they certainly didn’t mention that six foot all singing all dancing rose in the garden whose psychic visions are going to save the day

"Because you see to truly know a story, you must know all deets. And let me tell you chookies, the story you know of Rapunzel is incomplete.

"But finally, at long last, you get to hear from all the characters, all six sides, all six chapters, and despite what you might have thought, they don’t all end in happily ever after.”

Alison Turnbull, director of development at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to partner with the National Theatre of Scotland to bring this exciting production of Rapunzel to online audiences and cinemas, making heritage accessible to all this festive season.

Amber Sylvia Edwards has bee cast in the lead role of Rapunzel.

"The historic setting of the magnificent Stirling Castle provides the perfect backdrop for the retelling of this iconic story and promises to bring us all some welcome festive cheer.”

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