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Vicky Featherstone aims to llght up Scottish theatre. Recent hits include Splendour at the Traverse in 2000
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Bright future for theatre
Steve Cramer welcomes the appointment of Vicky Featherstone as
director of Scotland’s new National Theatre.
hey got it right. For those of us. myself among them. who envisioned the possibility of the job of director of
Scotland's new National Theatre boiling down to a beauty contest between a bunch of old buffers. there's plenty to thank the selection panel for. After seven years at the English touring company Paines Plough, Vicky Featherstone has taken up the post of director. It's an adventurous choice. but also a far sighted and very astute one. Featherstone's appointment seems to indicate that new writing will be prioritised by the National, a very good sign, and the kind of work she's brought to Scotland with Paines Plough could be very welcome.
While the updatings of old classics that much of Scottish theatre has produced over the years are by no means to be despised, pieces that are new and original might make the new National seem more forward looking. And this is the kind of work that Featherstone has produced. Her particular interest in new writing will allow Scotland to play to its theatrical strengths. through the unquestioned abilities of its writers.
But there are other possibilities. of equal advantage in Featherstone's appointment. Scotland's theatre, perhaps unjustly, has gained the reputation for great writers, fine actors and occasionally competent directors. If this isn't fair, it might reasonably be said that directors have lagged behind other
theatre practitioners in the perception of their abilities. So. Featherstone's mention of the possibility of a ‘director's theatre’ in Scotland at the press conference where her appointment was announced is intriguing. This might well help to either banish the myth or address the problem of directors in Scotland. depending on the view you take.
Grumblings about Featherstone's non-Scottish origins are frankly ridiculous. Featherstone is English by birth (though she spent a portion of her childhood in Scotland) but to complain of this is to confine Scotland's creative base to a narrowly ethnocentric stratum. Indeed, if we're very lucky, she might bring her long term creative collaborator John Tiffany back to Scotland. where the Yorkshireman delighted so many with his work at the Traverse until his departure a couple of years back. What is crucial. though. is that she is able to develop her already existing links in Scottish theatre. and with Featherstone's abilities as a facilitator, one hopes that this will occur in months. The greatest hope for this critic. though, is that Featherstone is able to help with the kind of small scale, experimental work that has so thrived in Scotland in recent years. By all means please the odd crowd with a dirty great epic. but let ‘s not forget what goes on between small groups of performers and small crowds in small rooms. This is the creative engine room of Scotland's. and any theatre.
£1m new gi‘u‘aiaiai‘aancers
Scottish Dance Theatre moves into an architect-designed rehearsal space. Words: Kelly Apter
hile Scottish Ballet's quest for new premises continues, Our other national dance company has had
more success on the moving front. Based at Dundee Rep Theatre. Scottish Dance Theatre has just cut the ribbon on a new 21m studio. Seven years in the planning, the spacious top floor space is a far cry from SDT’s previous home. buried deep in the bowels of the theatre. Natural light and air has replaced harsh strip lighting and an air conditioning system which sucked in fumes from a nearby car park. The dancers and artistic director Janet Smith are thrilled with the studio, which will allow them to build on the company's already impressive repertoire.
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Smith has been campaigning for the new space since her arrival in Dundee seven years ago. But a Scottish Arts Council Lottery award of £660,000 had to be augmented by Eastern Scotland European Partnership funds and donations from local trusts before work could finally commence last September. Designed in sympathy with the existing building by architects Nicoll Russell Studios. the new studio boasts two vast windows — one of which affords a stunning view of Law Hill — and a Sprung dance floor. Having been below ground for eight hours a day in their previous studio. Smith is convinced that the new surroundings will inspire the dancers and visiting choreographers.
1 The Sopranos TV Tony is back. And in the fifth series, he has a shifty namesake to contend with in the shape of his cousin Tony Blundetto, played by the ever-excellent Steve Buscemi. See Feature, page 6. E4, Channel 4.
2 Andrei Rublev Film Andrei Tarkovsky's 608 classic about a minor icon painter of the 15th century is welcomed back in the form of a shiny new print. See Film, pages 16. GFT, Glasgow.
3 David Foster Wallace
Books Perhaps the coolest hepcat on the US literary scene delivers another blistering publication, Oblivion, a collection of dark and deep tales. See Books, page 50. Abacus.
4 Mark Lanegan Band
Records Fancy a mouthful of Bubblegum pop? With an array of special guests (PJ Harvey and Izzy Stradlin for two), the Sparklehorse leader gives us songs to get our teeth into. See Records, page 50. Beggars Banquet.
TV Plastic surgeons are the new undertakers/ mobsters as the latest top US drama comes to terrestrial screens. Should put you off getting a boob job for life. See Watch it This Week, page 49. Channel 4.