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Did I live in a religious household?

Did I live in a religious household? I guess I did, but it never really felt that way. We said our prayers at night and grace before dinner (and because I knew no other way, those events did not feel odd or extreme at all) but apart from that my parents were very hands off by way of religious instruction. That was for Church. My upbringing was far from severe and I have no doubt that my character contains many positive attributes gleaned from the version of Christianity I was brought up in. I try to be kind and think of others. I am not overly preoccupied with gathering wealth or possessions. I believe in turning the other cheek as much as possible. And this is not to say that a secular upbringing cannot produce identical traits, nor that these traits are true of every religion or indeed always positive in every situation. Growing up in a religious household has not severely damaged me, but I’d like to talk about two ways in which it seems to have left a little bit of a mark.

Firstly, there is the sin of pride. It’s a sin, you see, because if you are proud of an achievement it is to dismiss or diminish the role that God had in that achievement. Instead of feeling proud of yourself you should rejoice in the God who made it all possible. This is designed to have the effect of making one feel humble, but in reality, what it did to me was to make me incapable of feeling joy in my achievements. I didn’t win the rugby tournament. God did. To this day I still hold some shadow of that idea within me making it difficult for me to enjoy my successes. It’s now ingrained within me, only I’ve exchanged God with determinism. Don’t be proud. You didn’t do it. It’s just something that had to happen.

And secondly, infinity. When I was young I did not have a crippling fear of death. No, I had a fear of never dying. Or being alive on an ethereal plane … forever. With no hope of it ever ending. No option but to continue. For ever. FOR. EVER. It’s not an exaggeration to state that this crippled me to the extent that I used to cry the bitterest, most fearful tears one can imagine into the mirror in the bathroom thinking about it. Yes, I was dramatic about it, but the fear was very real. I can still call upon it if it’s useful when performing. Now, of course, I’m thankful to say, it’s death that makes me feel that way, and the idea of infinity is thankfully no longer a concern.

I am thankful that these two afflictions of character are the only two that immediately spring to mind, suggestive of the fact that my religious upbringing has been of little hindrance to my life at all. However, it’s important to remember that this is not everyone’s experience and, as is all too evident today, faith and religion can lead to altogether more hideous outcomes.
 

Our Fathers
On tour October-November 2017.
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Edmund Gosse - a major figure

Edmund Gosse – the author of Father and Son – was, in his time, a major figure in the British literary scene. Born in London in 1849, by the time he died in 1928 he had been knighted and made a Commander of the Bath: very much a man of the establishment, he was literary editor of the famous 1911 edition of the Encylopedia Britannica and his lecture on Thomas Hardy was recorded for the British Library.

During his career as a literary critic, author and poet, he befriended a huge number of famous litererary figures, though he was treated as something of a figure of fun behind his back: Virginia Woolf noted rather waspishly that he was a little too fond of people with titles and that he behaved like someone who had “not always been accustomed to getting his suits made in Saville Row.” When he died, T.S.Eliot observed that no-one could replace him because no-one quite knew what it was that he did.

Despite this, Gosse deserves credit for, among other things, introducing Ibsen’s work to British theatre – his translations (with William Archer) of Hedda Gabler and The Master Builder were mainstays of English-language productions for many years; he also arranged financial support for both W.B.Yeats and James Joyce when they were struggling at crucial points in their careers. Of the many books published in his lifetime – which included quite a lot of not-very-good poetry and hastily-written criticism – only Father and Son survives, but it casts a long shadow. Peter Carey’s

1988 Booker Prize-winning novel Oscar and Lucinda was strongly influenced by Gosse’s memoir: the relationship between Oscar and his father mirrors that of Edmund and his father, Philip. A number of passages are reproduced almost exactly, including the famous scene in which Philip Gosse throws a Christmas pudding the cook has secretly made into the fire, denouncing it as ‘popish’. Dennis Potter’s 1976 BBC television play Where Adam Stood, is based on the section of Father and Son that recounts Philip’s crisis of faith following the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In the book, Edmund touchingly notes that “every instinct in his intelligence went out at first to greet the new light. It had hardly done so, when a recollection of the opening chapter of 'Genesis' checked it at the outset.” The film is a beautifully touching distillation of the book, but is sadly unavailable commercially. It occasionally pops up on YouTube for a while before being taken down again. Rob and I were able to watch it during a brief window of availability and, although we have taken a different route with the material, we admired it greatly. It captures both the tragedy of Philip’s steadfast belief in creationism and the charm of the father and son relationship.

Our Fathers
On tour October-November 2017.
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The Mother of All Festivals

The Edinburgh Festivals are about to begin. We've made our way through the endless listings and recommend the below from Magnetic North alumni:

Arab Arts Focus, from 2 Aug

Eaten, from 4 Aug

Chill Habibi, from 4 Aug

Fairich: Live, 14, 21, 22-28 Aug

Home is Not the Place, 18-27 Aug

Wired. 23-26 Aug

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Celebrating fatherhood

For Father's Day, we thought it would be a nice idea to ask recent father Rob Drummond to reflect on his experience so far:

I’ve been a father for 139 days. So far I’d liken it to voluntarily signing up for a forced labour camp run by a tiny mute dictator. I’m not finding it complicated, I’m finding it mentally and physically gruelling. Like moving twelve heavy cement bags from one van to another. And knowing that you have to do the same thing again tomorrow. What? Not cheery enough for you. Well that’s something we need to change. Of course it’s wonderful to see him smile at me in the morning. It goes without saying that I love him with a fierce instinctive love which is different to any I’ve experienced before. I’m definitely glad we did it. It’s just that people don’t talk enough about how gruelling it can be. How taxing on your relationship. It feels like I’m expected to talk with unqualified positivity when someone asks me if I’m ‘enjoying being a dad’. I’m enjoying parts of it. I’m enjoying watching him grow and learn. I’m enjoying getting more and more feedback from him. And I’m looking forward to the time where we can hold a conversation. My life is better for having him in it. But it’s also less my life.

And that’s the thing about it. In a few months I’ll turn my attention to Our Fathers, a new play I’m working on with Nick Bone and Magnetic North, which is about communication between fathers and sons. When you have a child you are willingly giving up part of your life - or at least agreeing to live for someone else rather than for yourself. And it’s more intense than the commitment you make to a partner because a partner neglected might leave you but they certainly wouldn’t starve to death. This little boy relies on me and his mother one hundred percent of the time for one hundred percent of the things he needs. His physical and mental self will develop according to the things we feed him and the things we tell him. So what do you do with such responsibility? How do you make sure that your child grows into a balanced adult? How do you communicate effectively with him? Do you tell him what to think or teach him how to think, at the risk that he will end up coming to the ‘wrong’ conclusion? My father and Nick’s were both clergymen and we are both now unbelievers. What if my son, when he’s older, has a fundamentally different worldview than I do? Will we still get on? Will he respect me? Will I respect him? At this stage as you can tell, it’s far more questions than answers.

For the time being I guess I’ll just try my best to enjoy the bits I enjoy, take pleasure in his company and remember something that we seem programmed to forget; IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. If I do that for long enough maybe he’ll grow up happy. Which is all I really want.

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Rough Mix 2017 in Peebles

This year’s Rough Mix (our multi-art form residency) will take place at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles from 19th June, and is supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Creative Scotland.

We have a wonderful group of artists coming - including a composer, dancer, visual artist and occasional filmmaker. You are welcome to join us for a sharing of work at Eastgate Theatre on Friday 30th June at 6.00pm.  Book a free ticket here.

Here is a brief introduction to the experienced artists:

Annie George is an Edinburgh-based, Kerala-born, writer, theatremaker and occasional filmmaker.  She was recently awarded the Inspiring Scotland Saltire Bursary by the Saltire Society and Scottish Book Trust to support her writing. She is currently writing Home Is Not The Place, with dramaturgical support by Alan Bissett, for this year’s Fringe.  Most recently, Annie presented a work-in-progress of Untamed, a play with live music at Imaginate’s Ideas Exchange. Annie’s solo show The Bridge was commissioned for Glasgow 2014, and toured Scotland, and to the Nehru Centre London, in 2015. Annie directed I Knew A Man Called Livingstone at National Library of Scotland at Edinburgh Fringe, Scottish International Storytelling Festival and Storymoja Hay Festival Nairobi Kenya in 2013; and Nzinga: Warrior Queen at Fringe 2016 (both by Mara Menzies).
anniegeorge.net

Caitlin Skinner is a theatre director based in Edinburgh. She is Artistic Director of the Village Pub Theatre, one half of visual theatre duo Jordan and Skinner, and Director with new writing theatre company Pearlfisher. Her directing credits include Hair of the Dog, The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, Sanitise (winner of 2014 Scotsman Fringe First Award) Selkie and The Happiest Day of Brendan Smillie’s Life. Caitlin was dramaturg on As the Crow Flies and rehearsal director for A Stone’s Throw. Caitlin has worked as Assistant Director with National Theatre of Scotland, Dundee Rep, Traverse Theatre and Royal Lyceum Theatre. Caitlin is co founder of collaborative theatre project Scrapyard which creates opportunities for artists to form new collaborations and explore different ways of working.
twitter.com/caitskin

Ross Whyte is a Glasgow-based composer, originally from Aberdeen. His compositional output has included collaborations with artists of disciplines different from his own, including dance, theatre, sculpture and web design. In 2014 he collaborated with musician Alasdair Roberts on the Sound Festival project New Approaches to Traditional Music. He also has a particular passion for working alongside dancers and dance choreographers, and has collaborated with many key practitioners. Ross is one of the founding members of Orphaned Limbs Collective, an interdisciplinary group of artists that push the boundaries between disciplines. Ross has received several awards including the Chris Cadwur James Award for Composition and two Derek Ogston Postgraduate Scholarships. His debut album, Kaidan, was released in 2015 by Comprende Records. In 2016 he released the album Fairich as part of the Gaelic Ambient duo WHɎTE.
rosswhyte.com

Karl Jay-Lewin started dancing at 27, after a background of carpentry and social/political activism. In 1997 he become an Associate Artist at The Place Theatre. Since then he has been working as a professional choreographer and performer. In 2000 Karl moved to Findhorn, Moray in North East Scotland.  As a dance maker Karl’s work is generally rooted in the post modern, experimental dance scene. His recent practice has been significantly enhanced and developed by two important collaborations; with seminal choreographer Deborah Hay through her Solo Performance Commissioning Project (At Once 2009, I Think Not 2011); and with composer Matteo Fargion, with whom he made the live dance and music piece Extremely Bad Dancing to Extremely French Music.  In addition to his work as an independent choreographer and performer, Karl is co-founder and Artistic Director of Bodysurf Scotland and co-founder of Moray Culture Café.
karljaylewin.info

Flore Gardner lives and works between France and Scotland. She has been exhibiting her work in private galleries and public institutions in the UK, France and internationally since 2004. In 2016 she took part in the Hidden Door Festival in Edinburgh, for which she created an installation with the M(ob)ile, a one-mile long cord she took four months to French-knit, and which makes monumental drawings in space. From 2011 to 2013 Flore was a member of the artist's group UCD Un certain détachement, based in Grenoble. They specialised in the production and sale of art multiples, presented in recycled vending machines situated in non-art spaces, a "gallery in a box”. In 2003, she founded and ran for two years the artist’s restaurant, Les 19... in Marseilles, France. Flore invented and cooked monochromatic/thematic menus, serving a different one every day.
floregardner.wix.com/flore-gardner

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J. Sharp Taking A Walk
07 September 2014
Very much enjoyed your show at the Brunton Theatre last night and the silent walk to start was an excellent addition, creating the perfect atmosphere....