Published: 14/11/2014 17:17 - Updated: 14/11/2014 17:42

North talent look to the nightmare aftermath of WW1

 

NOVEMBER’S lunchtime theatre offering from Play Pieces may look back a century to World War I, but co-creators Rebecca Martin and Nicholas Ralph believe Beyond The Trenches also strikes a very contemporary note.

"The idea came from the 100th anniversary of the war, but we also wanted to link it to contemporary issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was known as Shell Shock then," former Nairn Academy pupil Ralph explained.

"It all ties in together and it’s great that we were able to get the November slot."

Performed just a few days after Remembrance Day, Beyond The Trenches looks at the lasting impact of the war on a young couple in the north of Scotland, Robbie and Isla MacLean, as Robbie relives the nightmare of his time in the trenches every night when he dreams.

The play is credited to both Martin and Ralph and their own theatre company Northern Heights Theatre, but they readily acknowledge the bulk of the writing has fallen on 21-year old Martin from Inverness.

Now studying a Masters in Creative Writing at Napier University where she is one of the youngest candidates to be accepted onto the course, she does not rule out acting in the future, but sees herself more as a writer.

"I’m the opposite side of the coin," Ralph admitted.

"Acting is where I like to be and where I feel more comfortable. Rebecca has her own style of writing, so it wouldn’t have been right to try and put in my stuff." Martin knows of a great-grandfather who fought in the trenches, but a more direct influence on the play were the war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and especially Wilfred Owen.

"Owen’s poems really stood out," she said.

"They were such vivid pieces of writing that you could almost see events happening before you."

Martin could also draw on some help in recreating the experiences of World War I. Her brother works for an Edinburgh based company which takes school groups to the battlefields in Belgium.

"My brother tells me all the stories from his visits to the battlefields," she said.

"They find it very emotional. It’s really upsetting stuff."

There are similarities to what was voted Scotland’s favourite novel, Sunset Song, seen recently at Eden Court in a stage version, but for director Jimmy Chisholm, Beyond The Trenches is a much more personal tale.

Director Jimmy Chisholm with co-creators Rebecca Martin and Nicholas Ralph.
Director Jimmy Chisholm with co-creators Rebecca Martin and Nicholas Ralph.

"This is writing by young people and young people should hear about it," Chisholm said.

"Rebecca is addressing them in their own language. She’s not writing like a historian, she writing about a young woman’s experience."

Born in Inverness and now one of Scotland’s best known actors — whose profile is set to rise further with news that his Comedy Playhouse pilot, Miller’s Mountain, has been given the green light by the BBC for a full series — Chisholm is back in his home town to mentor a new generation of acting talent, such as 21-year old Martin and 24-year old Ralph.

He has been working with Eden Court chief executive and fellow actor and Highlander Jimmy Yuill to encourage original theatre from the Highlands.

While Yuill recently directed a new play by Moray writer Morna Young, Never Land, on a Highland wide tour, Chisholm is happy to be doing the same with Martin and Ralph.

"We are trying to raise the profile of young people working in theatre in the Highlands," he said.

"It’s still a huge step to go down the road and try and make it in Glasgow and Edinburgh and Inverness is churning out so many talented drama graduates. We just want to try and create a scene up here where you can put on professional work. We want to produce work up here and take it down south."

Which is why it is so important to encourage young talent like Martin and Ralph, who is following the HND in Acting and Performance he studied at Inverness College with a BA Acting course with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.

"Young people are the only ones who can help theatre survive by generating interest among their own peers," Chisholm said.

"Anything is possible. People should chase their dreams — and the arts in general are about dreams."

Beyond The Trenches written and performed by Rebecca Martin and Nicholas Ralph is at the Drouthy Cobbler, Elgin, on Friday and The Phoenix Bar, Inverness, on Saturday.

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