Birdsong – King’s Theatre

Written by Sebastian Faulks, Adapted by Rachel Wagstaff

Directed by Alistair Whatley & Charlotte Peters

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Never again”; the imperative words uttered regarding the First World War. Yet, in the darkest moments of human history, we find an enticing light to the subject. Whether it be through respect, education or simply guilt, the lessons we garner from these times are urgent. Adapted from the 1993 novel of the same name, Birdsong seeks to reignite our respect and recover history.

Beneath the moaning earth, littered with the fallen, an entirely different war was waged. Tunnels, some 100ft below No Man’s Land, carved out by British, French and Germans attempting to lay explosives below the other. Dug by ‘sewer rats’, men who dug out the London undergrounds, men like Jack Firebrace (Tim Treloar) aching for news of his son in London. Still soldiers in their own right, risking their lives in multiple ways just as those above the surface did. Laced within this narrative are flashbacks to the rumbles of war, as Stephen Wraysford (Tom Kay) arrives in France. He finds a gleam of light in the shade, Isabelle (Madeleine Knight) a married French woman.

Differing from the novel, focusing more on the stories of Wraysford and Firebrace is a respectful turn as opposed to their descendants. It eases the narrative, driving our attention into the correct areas. The fuse takes time to smoulder, and you’ll certainly find it easier to connect with one character over the other. Yet in the grand scheme their fates are entwined to the audience’s receptiveness. Deeply moved by the outcome, even with characters we hadn’t entirely warmed to.

A touching thematic exploration of fatherhood is conducted through the larger role of Firebrace. Treloar embodies the spirit of a father, the centre of his garrison keeping the men jovial and the young brave. Balancing this are Knight and Kay whose passions betray otherwise icy exteriors. The fleeting moments of fondness one seeks in desperate times are deep, showing that there is more to the tale of war than death. Even through this, love still exists, however complicated. The chemistry, more so than between the romantic leads, but Treloar and Kay as comrades is touching, leading to gut dropping moments.

Transitions are complicated in the medium of the theatre stage, unable to rely on the usual tricks screen productions can call upon. Birdsong however manages a tremendous feat, we never need to question if we are in the ‘present’ or past. More than this, simple tricks of the light and swift flat moves manifest all forms of location. From the grim trenches, deep underground to the claustrophobic tunnels. Alex Wardle’s tweaked lighting design is simple, nothing over the top but manages to shift the tone from one of song to the dreaded ‘over the top’ moments of the Somme tastefully.

With war, comes pain. One cannot sugar-coat the atrocities of the past, nor should we ever re-write them. Even in fictional works, the subject matter needs to remain as truthful as possible to real events. Throughout the seclusion of the grimness, small sparks of humanity remain. Tiny touches which, just to those brave men, lift the audience out of the doldrums. Singing, music and those symbolic birdsongs help alleviate the bleakness, whilst also reinforcing the severity of the situation.

Recovering history is of paramount importance. As memories fade, they alter, they shift and warp. Productions such as Birdsong, as too the original novel, seek to maintain a narrative. Even if fictionalised. It would be a stretch to describe Birdsong as uplifting, though it is enjoyable. Its subject matter of trauma isn’t made to entertain, more so to reignite emotions. In truth, it is a fundamentally engaging piece of adaptation, with merit behind its messages. For lest we forget (again), that what is war but hell?

Review originally published for The Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/birdsong-kings-theatre-edinburgh-2/

Raise The Curtain – Capital Theatre’s Digital Engagement

The curtain will rise again. But until then, we invite you to Discover it. Create it. Perform it

From the heart of one of the nation’s Theatrical epicentres, Capital Theatre, managing charity for Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, King’s Theatre and The Studio announces Raise the Curtain, a wide-range of events and digital activities to engage with the audiences while theatres are closed. So, whether you’re a young connoisseur of the arts finishing a nap, or keen to engage in some intergenerational ballroom dancing before a nap, Raise the Curtain will allow a range of live virtual performances, and interactive engagement sessions straight to your home.

Below you will find details regarding the outlines for many of the activities which are open to the public, as well as private projects developed for specific community groups.

Finding it tough to keep the Wee Creatives entertained? Or perhaps you’re looking for an excuse to crack out the art supplies and play-dress up? Well, no excuse is required for Wee Creatives which will offer free creative sessions for young children and their adults to enjoy. These weekly sessions shift from The Studio Theatre and directly into your home, with each week being led by a different performance artist who will lead a child friendly session. Presented live from Zoom and located on YouTube, these sessions begin as of today (May 28th)

And starting in July, over the period of eight weeks you’ll have the ability to learn to dance from the comfort of your own home, through a series of live and pre-recorded sessions courtesy of Shall We Dance? Hosted by former Scottish, International and World Champion dancer, Dawn Irvine. Dawn will bravely lead these bimonthly sessions in a for you to learn how to perform your own ballroom classics such as the Foxtrot, Jive, Waltz or the infamous Cha Cha Cha. Between sessions you’ll also gain access to these pre-recoded videos to ensure those two left feet don’t act up between lessons. All leading up to a grand spectacle, as Capital Theatres will host an afternoon, live on Zoom, for everyone to join in and strut their stuff, including a show dance from Andrei Toader and Mia Linnik-Holden.

We’ve spoken on Corr Blimey before about the marvellously popular Tea and Jam sessions held by Capital. A part of their dementia inclusive programme, this family friendly event is a monthly Zoom must, whether you’re cracking out the old guitars or warming up those vocals, all ages are welcome. This 45-minute session of uplifting melody is led by professional musician Gus Harrower and will held the last Friday of each month from 11am until noon.

QOTA was the highlight of the two-year partnership with LGBT Youth Scotland, a co-created original piece made with a group of young trans-activists across Scotland. Performing in front of 300 MSPs and invited guests at the Scottish Parliament in February, Capital have moved their activities with the group to a digital creative platform, where there is a continued supported to engage with the performing arts during lockdown.

Ever thought about what it’s like high up the lighting rig, or behind the box office? Well, with Behind the Scenes the public are invited to join an interactive call with staff at Capital Theatres to share the secrets of the theatre and how the tricks and magic come together. Having started last night (May 27th) this is sure to be of tremendous interest to those theatrical fans and budding performers.

Still not learned enough about the way Capital works? Well, with their Virtual Backstage Tours you can get your fix of all the secrets and mysteries lurking beneath The King’s Theatre, or some of the historical accomplishments the Festival Theatre (once Empire) has achieved. Starting June 2020, if you’ve been lucky enough to attend these tours in person, you’ll know how fascinating these sessions can be.

As part of their long-standing partnership with Harmeny Education Trust (a residential care home for care experienced children, in South West Edinburgh) Harmeny has been adapted to become a co-created storytelling project during lockdown. Gradually building the world and narrative around them, children create the story, choose the characters and environment and steadily, each week share, through various creative means, how they would like the story to advance. This in turn is then transformed into an artistic response through video the following week. By the conclusion of the six-week programme three short films of the children’s stories will be made available to enjoy and share.

FUSE is a project for anyone who is care experienced. For the last two months, participants over the age of sixteen have been digitally meeting weekly to discuss challenges presented, or heightened, by lockdown such as isolation, anxiety, and loneliness. Broadening their experiences, their weekly theatre club Zoom involves participants watching theatre online, bringing the group together to discover new performing arts and sharing the experiences.

Finally, Joy to the Moment looks to provide entertainment for residents isolating in care homes, or those shielding in their own. A series of small performances, wonderfully inspired from Gracie Irvine, a young pupil at The Edinburgh Steiner School, whose concerns for people isolating and in care surroundings, wanting to find a way to provide comfort and entertainment, starting June 1st.

We may, presently, be unable to soak in the rich atmosphere of the theatre, but it will return. And until that day, we can maintain a cultural adoration and encourage a continued and right to engage with and develop art.

Full information regarding specific events can be sourced directly from Capital Theatres, either from their social media channels or website: http://www.capitaltheatres.com

Photo Credit – Phil Wilkinson info@philwilkinson.net http://www.philwilkinson.net 01316186373

Covid-19 – Theatre/Events responses & information

As of March 16th, the Scottish Government advises a policy to protect the capacity of our public services, advising that organisers should cancel or postpone all mass events of 500 people or more – indoors or outdoors.

Below is an ongoing list of Scottish Theatre & events venues which have provided their stance on the matter, with many revaluating constantly in accordance with government advice and the safety of the public and their staff paramount. This page will seek to guide, inform and update readers to which venues remain open, have cancelled events (which should be checked on their respective websites, or have gone dark (closed).

If you have purchased tickets for events or production in the coming weeks/months, we recommend you get in contact with the representatives of the theatres. Box office numbers and website listings for an email address and contact details are below. Please bear in mind the difficult time for these companies, with staff working their hardest to support audiences, talent and each other. The person at the other end of your enquiry is potentially about to have no job for the foreseeable future.

Edinburgh & Lothians:

Assembly RoxyBox Office: 0131 623 3030 – www.assemblyfestival.com
Current Status: Dark

Bedlam Theatre https://bedlamtheatre.co.uk
Current Status: Events cancelled

The BruntonBox Office: 0131 665 2240 – www.thebrunton.co.uk
Current Status: Dark

Church Hill Theatre www.assemblyroomsedinburgh.co.uk
Current Status: Shows postponed

The Festival Theatre & The King’s Theatre Box Office 0131 529 6000www.capitaltheatres.com
Current Status: Dark

The Playhouse – Box Office: 0844 871 3014 – www.atgtickets.com
Current Status: Dark

The Royal Lyceum Theatre – Box Office 0131 248 4848 – https://lyceum.org.uk
Current Status: Dark

Scottish Storytelling Centre – 0131 556 9579 https://www.scottishstorytellingcentre.com/
Current Status: Show Cancellation

Summerhall – Box Office 0131 560 1581 – https://www.summerhall.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Traverse Theatre – Box office: 0131 228 1404www.traverse.co.uk
Current Status: Dark

Glasgow:

Glasgow Tramway – Box Office 0845 330 3501 – https://www.tramway.org/Pages/home.aspx
Current Status: Dark

King’s Theatre Royal – Contact Info 0844 871 7648 – https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/kings-theatre-glasgow/info/
Current Status: Dark

Òran Mór – Contact Into 0141 357 6200 – https://oran-mor.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Pavilion Theatre – Box Office 0141 332 1846 – https://www.paviliontheatre.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Royal Conservatoire Scotland – Box Office +44 (0) 141 332 5057 – https://www.rcs.ac.uk/coronavirus-faqs/
Current Status: Suspending productions until further notice

The Tron Theatre – Box Office 0141 552 4267 – https://www.tron.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Performing Arts: Encompassing The Lemon Tree, His Majesty’s Theatre and The Music Hall – 01224 641122 – https://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/coronavirus/
Current Status: Dark

The Trivoli Theatre – Contact Number 01224 592755 – https://thetivolitheatre.com/
Current Status: Dark

Dundee and Perthshire:

Dundee Rep – Box Office 01382 223530 – https://www.dundeerep.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Space – https://www.dundee.com/activity/space
Current Status: Dark

Perth Theatre & Concert Hall – Box Office 01738 621031 – https://www.horsecross.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Fife:

The Adam Smith Theatre – Box Office 01592 583302 – https://www.onfife.com/venues/adam-smith-theatre
Current Status: Show Cancellations

The Alhambra Theatre – Box Office 01383 740 384 – https://alhambradunfermline.com/
Current Status: Show Cancellations

The Byre Theatre – Box Office 01334 475000 – https://byretheatre.com/
Current Status: Dark, starting March 15th until May 31st

Rothes Hall – Box Office 01592 611101https://www.onfife.com/venues/rothes-halls
Current Status: Show Cancellations

Stirling:

The Macroberts Art Centre –  01786 466666https://macrobertartscentre.org/
Current Status: Dark

Ayr:

The Gaiety Theatre – Box Office 01292 288235 – https://thegaiety.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Greenock:

The Beacon Arts Centre – 01475 723 723https://www.beaconartscentre.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Highlands:

Eden Court – Box Office 01463 234 234 – https://eden-court.co.uk/news/statement-on-covid-19-coronavirus
Current Status: Dark

Pitlochry Festival Theatre – Box Office +44 (0)1796 484 626 – https://pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com/
Current Status: Dark

Dumfries:

The Theatre Royal – Box Office 01387 254209 – https://www.theatreroyaldumfries.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Honourable Mention:

The Royal & Derngate (Theatre & Cinema) – Box Office: 01604 624811 – https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/
Curent Status: Dark

This page shall update if & when information is received, in the meanwhile stay safe, smart and support your local arts. They’re going to need it in the coming months.