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Time running out to catch Rebus: The Lockdown Blues made for The National Theatre Of Scotland series Scenes For Survival which was made to screen during the pandemic and has now been seen 22 million times

By Margaret Chrystall

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An exclusive short film featuring Ian Rankin's detective John Rebus is one of the the National Theatre Of Scotland online plays created during lockdown that there isn't much time left to see.

Brian Cox in Rebus's Lockdown Blues
Brian Cox in Rebus's Lockdown Blues

At last weekend's Cromarty Crime & Thrillers Weekend, Ian Rankin mentioned the film which he wrote the script for and which features Scottish actor Brian Cox and is directed by Cora Bissett.

And Rebus: The Lockdown Blues is now one of the films which have had over 22 million views across all platforms.

In it, weeks into lockdown and imprisoned at home, his only distant link to the outside world is coming through infrequent visits from his long-standing colleague Siobhan. And the ageing Inspector Rebus reflects on his bizarre solitary confinement.

The total National Theatre Of Scotland film and drama project, delivered in association with BBC Scotland, Screen Scotland, BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine project, with support from Hopscotch Films, saw 55 films released in total and contributions from over 200 artists and theatre freelancers.

The Scenes For Survival short dramatic works have been online and free for audiences to view for two years. A selection of the Scenes For Survival films were also released on BBC iPlayer, as well as being broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel in August 2021.

The 55 short pieces of digital theatre were created by some of Scotland’s most exciting performers, writers, directors, and other creatives working remotely from their personal spaces of isolation. These were filmed from locations across Scotland and the UK, including Ayrshire, Brighton, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Hertfordshire, Liverpool, London, Midlothian, Motherwell, Paisley, Perthshire, Stirling and Stornoway, as well as international locations as far-flung as Dublin, New York and Seoul, South Korea. The season has been viewed by audiences from 52 countries.

Danni The Champion, a powerful short drama from Iain Findlay Macleod shot on the Isle of Lewis, was selected for screening at seven international film festivals.

The film was directed by Laura Cameron-Lewis and features Stornoway actor Francesca Taylor Coleman in her professional debut.

Scenes For Survival won one of the 2020 RNIB See Differently – Coronavirus Heroes Awards, which celebrated making the series fully accessible with audio description, captioning and BSL introductions while Fatbaws, a surreal and hilarious short film written by Douglas Maxwell, directed and performed by Peter Mullan, was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA.

The audio described version of Aleister Crowley Summons the Devil by Denise Mina, directed by Amy Liptrott and performed by Gordon Houston is now the most watched National Theatre Of Scotland YouTube video of all time.

Five of the films achieved more than one million views – The Longest Summer, performed by Richard Rankin, written by Noisemaker and directed by Jemima Levick; Janey Godley’s Alone series Part I and II directed by Caitlin Skinner and featuring Jack Lowden; Peter Mullan’s Fatbaws written by Douglas Maxwell, with the most viewed single film,The Domestic by Uma Nada-Rajah, performed by Kristi McDonald reaching 4.5 million people. This film was shared widely on social amongst hospital workers. The writer, Uma Nada-Rajah was herself working as nurse during the pandemic.

Uma Nada-Rajah, writer of The Domestic said: “I was on shift as a nurse in an acute area the day that the NHS rolled out the ‘no visitors' directive. It was in those murky, early days of the pandemic- no one had a clue what was going on. I went home shaken and the following day wrote The Domestic in one sitting. I'm really pleased that it seems to have touched people”

Produced by the National Theatre Of Scotland, in association with BBC Scotland, Screen Scotland, BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine project with support from Hopscotch Films.

Alan Cumming in Out Of The Woods.
Alan Cumming in Out Of The Woods.

Scenes For Survival offered paid opportunities to artists, performers, and other theatre freelancers during a uniquely challenging time.

Over 200 creatives and freelancers worked on the project. More than a third of artists involved in Scenes For Survival were working with National Theatre Of Scotland for the first time, including over half of the writers commissioned for the project.

The season of works also acted as a platform to raise money for a new hardship fund for artists and those in the theatre industry who had been hardest hit financially by the current crisis. Launched by National Theatre Of Scotland in association with the Federation of Scottish Theatre, the McGlashan Trust, and leading Scottish theatre organisations, all donations to the fund went directly to providing support for Scottish theatre workers most impacted by the current crisis.

You can see Scenes For Survival Films here www.bbc.co.uk/scenesforsurvival and www.nationaltheatrescotland.com/scenesforsurvival

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