Who are the new Highland Theatre companies, actors, writers, directors, technicians etc? And what are we doing to support them now?

Lindsay Brown, 8 September 2012

The development of theatre and drama in the Highlands seems to fall into two areas - Educational institutions and Community.

Looking at the role of Educational institutions first, the UHI and Highland colleges are playing a role in developing new talent however they are constantly fighting to keep their courses open. If they have 8 students on their course they are fighting to keep it going against stiff competition from the hairdressing course with 50 students. At the College in Inverness, students were asked how many of them were interested in a career in Theatre. 60% positively indicated they did want to move beyond the HNC on offer and into professional work. The courses currently give students a range of skills from acting to marketing, to ensure they are aware of every aspect of working in theatre. It was apparent that it was felt that the real success in creating a new theatre professional was assisting them to catch the bug, of firing enthusiasm for being involved in theatre from it's conception to the get-out. There is a lack of work opportunities for trainee technicians. At any theatre in Glasgow or Edinburgh there would be some form of placement but that is not happening in the Highlands, with only one theatre for instance. Other organisations such as Play Pieces or community halls in rural areas could happily offer placements to ensure skills development.

It was highlighted that Highland Youth Theatre resulted in many people who continue to work professionally in the Highland art scene now. Telling one person commented “Highland Youth Theatre, I read about that”. Past tense. The fact that something so significant and influential in the Highland theatre scene has been confined to history books is telling. There has been a degree of research done into theatre in the Highlands but more could be done to measure the social, cultural and economic impact of the work conducted over the last 30 years in the Highlands and how lessons could be learned in order to create sustainable and useful support for young people today.

The other area is the role of the community. In the Highlands there is always going to be the great challenge of geography to overcome. Putting on local productions after school is difficult when your cast live across a 100 mile radius with little public transport. There is access for young people at Eden Court theatre as well as the outreach work Eden Court does which is enormously important. Equally, the role that the Promoters Arts Networking play in taking professional productions into rural communities which would fire up enthusiasm and introduce a young person to a new show, a new company and an inspiring actor and a desire to get involved. In Caithness there are community readings happening of new work by a creative writing group, using local actors and putting it on in a community space.

There needs to be access to theatre - as an audience member and as someone wishing to explore their own role whether it is as a writer, actor, director etc and the opportunities need to be there within the community and at a higher level too. Giving them a platform to work towards, whether that is performing within the community, Eden Court, Play Pieces or the Edinburgh Fringe. Encouraging young people to get involved at every level and listening to them to help where needed.


Theatre companies, new writing, actor, Actor, education, Community, technicians, community, Education, writer