CREATIVE Scotland’s decision not to award funding to north lunchtime theatre strand Play Pieces may have curtailed expansion plans, but there are still reasons to be optimistic about the region’s own drama showcase.
"Creative Scotland has been turning down some really good applications, but we are in quite an advantageous position because we’ve been invited to apply again," Play Pieces director Lindsay Brown pointed out.
"They obviously see that there is potential with the project. We are going to meet them in a couple of weeks and talk to them about what we are trying to achieve with Play Pieces and where it sits within the cultural landscape of the Highlands.
"Play Pieces still fits in as an organisation that can take risks, artistically, and also fill the gap in provision for emerging artists to try new work, as well as giving established artists a place to showcase their work to new audiences."
Understanding Play Pieces within the context of the wider north arts scene is vital, Brown added, because Play Pieces has no interest in expanding to Glasgow or Edinburgh where its role of encouraging new work is already well covered, most notably by Glasgow’s Oran Mor Theatre and its A Play, A Pie and A Pint series, which provided the model for Play Pieces.
Although the Creative Scotland decision means that plans to take Play Pieces to other north communities have been shelved for the moment, its Inverness and Elgin events held latterly at the Phoenix Bar and The Drouthy Cobbler respectively will continue, as will special events such as Play Pieces’ recent Wee Theatre Festival of short plays held at various venues in the Inverness, Speyside and Black Isle area.
"The Elgin and Inverness audiences have been really welcoming and we don’t want to lose the audiences we have built up," Brown said.
The Wee Theatre Festival will also return in 2016, but in a new location which is still to be revealed.
Brown also hopes to add a couple of new lunchtime venues to the lunch time season, although this will still fall short of the seven Play Pieces hoped to reach with the aid of Creative Scotland funding.
"That’s incredibly exciting," Brown added.
"It’s not only about showing new audiences the work, it’s also about working with local promoters. We are offering them something a little different and they may be able to tap into an audience that can’t make it out in the evening. That’s what we found in Inverness and Elgin."
Adding extra venues will allow Play Pieces to stage its own mini-tours, providing emerging artists especially with the touring experience they so far lack.
However, some of the plays which have debuted at Play Pieces have already gone on to be seen beyond the Play Pieces lunchtime slots.
The Gospel Inquiry, actor and writer Sandy Nelson’s satire of media and religion, had a successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and a script has been sold to America for potential performance in the USA. Other Play Pieces shows such as The Beautiful House and Rhum Plants have also toured to other Highland venues while John Burns’ one man play Mallory: Beyond Everest makes the leap from a lunchtime performance at the Phoenix to Eden Court’s OneTouch Theatre on Tuesday 10th November.
"A few little quirky things are happening in Inverness now," Brown commented.
"I wonder of we have set the tone for people realising that you can do something a little different in Inverness, and there are people out there who are going to be responsive to it."
Brown is currently arranging an event for anyone interested in applying for the lunchtime season, which she hopes will return across four venues in September 2016.
"In this day and age, it’s wonderful to get public funding, but there are other models out there that don’t get public funding and have done incredibly well," Brown added.
"We just need to look at them and try and find other ways of doing things. We have to press ahead. There’s a lot of support out there for Play Pieces, and even five years on, it’s still needed. Perhaps even more so."