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Theatre of Scotland

Government, Nation & National Companies , Edinburgh Fringe , August 18, 2018
Theatre of Scotland by Government, Nation & National Companies “The Last Wolf” is a history book of excellence written in 2017 by a non-historian, Robert Winder. In his book Winder travels through the successive sources of wealth of Britain over the centuries- wool to textiles, coal to services. I had him for company on the train that links the two W's, Wolverhampton to Waverley.

The view through the window is a textbook-in-motion of the shifts in historical richness. In Shropshire black-and-white manor houses predominate. In Lancashire the giant mills still stand, although converted to other purposes. The stations of Preston and Carlisle are vaulting Victorian monuments in stone and steel. Cross into the border lands and the peel towers of the reiver lands appear. Wealth was never static.

Winder ends his book in Berwick-on-Tweed and thinks back to the cliffs of Dover. He remembers Levellers and Chartists, Methodists and Jarrow Marchers and wonders what it is that holds us all together. The answer of course is a culture held in common. That commonality splintered on June 23rd. Whether splintering turns to fracture is in the gift of the future. But then there has always been fracture, of different kinds. The high-speed trains that carry the thousands to the Fringe race past the Solway Firth. In another age, the "Killing Time”, Covenanters were tied to stakes far out on the sands to wait the incoming tide.

Commonality of culture, but difference. Scotland is another land. Type the phrase “National Theatre of Scotland performance criteria” into Duckduckgo and the information is ranked fourth after the company itself. Another click and there is the latest report signed off by Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Culture.

Search “National Theatre of United Kingdom performance criteria” or “National Theatre of Wales performance criteria” and the results are diffuse and uninformative. Whether this says anything general about the government of Scotland as distinct from the other nations is moot. The comparison may not be fair in that Holyrood funds its national companies directly. But search “Arts Council of Wales performance criteria” and there is no obvious data in the public domain.

For the enquiring citizen the five national companies of Scotland have an advantage in being the recipients of direct government funding. Reporting is in the hands of civil servants. The civil service places high value on quality of language. Jargon and obfuscation are not in the culture. The report is expressed in a lucid language. So Scotland's national theatre got £4.303M in the year 2015/2016 plus an additional £0.184M in touring grants. Government core funding for the five national companies in aggregate was 63%. 20% was earned in box office. 68% of turnover was spent on production, 8% on education, salaries were 6%.

The theatre company that year performed 509 times to 77,420 people in Scotland, to 16,495 people in the rest of UK, and 60,320 internationally. In the preceding year, 2014-2015, the corresponding audiences were 90,679 in Scotland, 102,959 in the UK and 58,188 internationally. The number of performances was 801. “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour” led, boosting the numbers rightly because it is joyous. “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” was seen in Seattle, Virginia, Washington DC. “ Macbeth” toured to Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka, Kanagawa and Kitakyusy

The National Theatre of Scotland has two co-productions at the Fringe in 2018. “My Left Right Foot” was sold out. Reviewers a-plenty had been there and by the second weekend, my arrival, there was space for no more. A visitor from the Welfare at Ystradgynlais did manage to get a ticket and attested to its outstanding excellence.

Theatre is for audience and their feedback on the Fringe site kicks off with “Easily the best NTS show since “Black Watch”. “Seven white performers (excluding the piano player), all ostensibly able-bodied, sing and dance and yell about inclusivity in a production directed with fantastic energy and panache by Robert Softley Gale. National Theatre of Scotland and Birds of Paradise certainly talk the talk, if nothing else. Brilliant ensemble playing.”

“Fantastic. A play about marginalization and exclusion, performed with inclusivity. Genius - laugh out loud while feeling a little guilty.” “Funny, irreverent, no politically correct prisoners taken here. Really well observed, great acting and overacting (where required!)”

The review-writers are unanimous, five stars the ranking given by eight of the Edinburgh publications.

Audience and critical reactions to the production can be read at:

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/my-left-right-foot-the-musical

The Government of Scotland's assessment report is to be admired for its accessibility. It can be read at

https://beta.gov.scot/publications/annual-r eport-five-scottish-national-performing-companies-april-2015-march/pages/7

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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