‘You’ve got to make a bold gesture. I believe in bold gestures. I think they’re important.’
William Burdett-Coutts has been making bold gestures (metaphorically speaking. . .) since he first arrived in Edinburgh and put together the initial Assembly Rooms Fringe Programme in a matter of months. That was in 1981 and this year the Assembly Rooms had their most successful year yet with over 100,000 visitors during the three weeks. His latest gesture goes both 5 beyond and behind the atmosphere of the Festival weeks; hosting the next Informal European Theatre Meeting (7—10 Nov) in a move to both extend the atmosphere of the Festival beyond August and to help continue to forge the International links and exchanges essential to its success.
This will be the first time that the IETM has been held in Scotland; an occasion far less stodgy than it
William Burdett-Coutts talks to Sarah Hemming about Theatre on the Move, the Informal European Theatre Meeting and international developments at Assembly, Edinburgh.
sending them abroad.
Some of the names are familiar from this year’s Festival, offering another chance to catch up on missed
. shows; the much acclaimed 5 adaptation of [an McEwan‘s
Cupboard Man; Communicado
sounds, IETM was first established a . Theatre Company's inventive
few years ago with the intention of holding informal bi-annual meetings between Festival directors, theatre administrators. press and other parties interested in fostering international theatre exchanges. Alongside the discussions and seminars Burdett-Coutts (together with Neil Wallace of Chapter in Cardiff, Michael Morris ofthe ICA in London and Michael Scott of Dublin Theatre Festival, have organised what amounts to a mini-festival in its own right; Theatre on the Move; 3 days of 15 shows picked to represent young, inventive and forward looking theatre in Britain with a view to eventually
Above: Pauper: Carnival Theatre Him: Jack Klal'l
Middle: Cupboard Man
Farrlglit: William Bartlett-Com
‘Gothic‘ production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame;
' Compagnie Philip Gaulier in the
delightfully irreverent and crude No Son ofMine. Others however, are probably new to Edinburgh audiences — the Paupers Carnival Theatre in a production based on Japanese tales of the supernatural, for example, and Brith Gof in a musical exposition of the ‘disappearances’ in Argentina. All performances are open to the public, as well as the delegates, and this is a matter of no little importance to Burdett-Coutts, as it also marks what he hopes will be a new development in increasing theatre
activity in Edinburgh in general and in the Assembly Rooms in particular.
‘It has to be a public event, partly to see if it works, and if it does work it’s a good precedent for doing things in the future. I would like to see the Assembly Rooms kept open all year?
This ideal is a goal that he is working towards gradually, planning ; initially to mount individual projects with the cooperation of the District council, who recently appointed a manager for the Assembly Rooms — a situation that initially caused some tension but is now working out quite well. In the Spring, Assembly Theatre, of which Burdett-Coutts is Artistic Director, hope to tour two productions with a newly formed company, Scottish Actors Enterprise, but the next large scale project planned for the Assembly Rooms themselves is the
Commonwealth Arts Festival. This
is to be a festival of theatre and music with all the shows originating in Commonwealth countries, running from 17 July until 2 August - which leaves a clear 6 days before the Fringe begins again . . .
If this sounds like all year round activity with a vengeance, Burdett-Coutts is only attempting it because he believes it can work. Ultimately he hopes to make the Assembly Rooms a lively centre all the time, with cabaret as well as more serious theatre, building on the heady atmosphere created during the festival — so it will be with anticipation and no small degree of apprehension that he approaches ‘Theatre on the Move’, its success or failure may offer some indication as to whether Edinburgh can really fully become a city where international excitement and possibilities extend throughout the whole year.
‘Edinburgh has a relationship with almost every theatre company in this country and others besides and
companies that come during the
Festival should be returning for the rest of the year. During the rest of the year you don’t get much chance to see exciting European work. I‘m convinced though that there’s an audience for it in Edinburgh and I’m convinced the Assembly Rooms could work. Ifit starts offin the right way, it will work. I want to try and recreate the Festival atmosphere, try and make the place feel like it‘s ticking — I’ll be intrigued to see who comes.’
Theatre on the Move (7—10 Nov) events are listed in the Theatre Listings section of the magazine.
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The List 1—14 November 13