In the good old days, if you recall, before the big bad virus swept across the world. You know, that flu that awakened our most primal of fears, leaving us high and dry, bleaching banana skins from the supermarket shelf and losing all concept of social cues and humility. The ‘good times’, before bumping into an old colleague in the supermarket left you equal parts scattered like some unassembled jigsaw and petrified, marooned and struggling in vain to stitch together some semblance of a normal, pleasant English sentence from the ruined, anxiety ridden attic of your mind whilst gripping a bottle of disinfectant (anti-viral of course) just in case they dared step foot within your 2 meter sanctuary of social isolation.
Pause for air.
Well, before all that, we had such things called ‘plays’. ‘Plays’, or ‘live TV’ (not really, but bear with me) were these real-life moving pictures where people called ‘actors’ would perform words written by writers, too strange and socially awkward for most other professions.
These ‘plays’ would be performed in ‘theatres’. Theatres were buildings that came in all shapes and sizes. From majestic stone coliseums in Greece, to tiny wee almost-shed-like structures near Whithorn on the Galloway coast. Yes, they were quite the hit for some time. People would travel in their millions to a tiny, expensive over-crowded city in Scotland to watch some semi-sane people dance and prance their way on stages in dive bars and portaloos. The legends of the Internet are rife with memories and photographs of these most magical, dumb and dangerous shenanigans.
Then the Big Bad came and ‘plays’ weren’t able to take place in theatres, with people, sitting right next to you, loudly chewing Werthers Originals, letting their mobile phones ring loudly occasionally interspersed with quiet farts now being considered a health risk. So much of them went online, in Instagram stories and glitchy Zoom sessions where you got to sit and stare at yourself, striking the odd socially-conscious facial cue to let them know you were in fact listening and not just scrolling through cat videos on YouTube. The same too happened here, at the Stove with the ‘Lowland’ play, ready to be performed in Lochside, Moniaive and Langholm, Lowland sank back into the dusty shadows of the rehearsal room and sat, patiently waiting for the time to return. Realising after three to four months that maybe wasn’t looking all that likely, it was time for a re-imagining!
Originally conceived and developed with the help and guidance of local young writers, poets and dramatists, Lowland initially explored what it meant to ‘belong’, using postcards filled out by Doonhamers, featuring drawings, poetry, stories and the occasional dirty joke. Over 500 of these postcards were filled out during poet Stuart A Paterson’s residency with the project over a year ago.
As time went on, the play started to take a bit of shape. Several adaptions, rewrites and voyages into dead-end dark tunnels later, the play was ready to be rehearsed with a talented community cast of local actors, writers and performers. Just as it was coming to the scripts-down, lights up, camera action…the big bad burst on through the stage door and it all went quiet.
Since then, the play has been re-adapted as a podcast in 2 chapters (originally it was meant to be a radio play but there was just too much swearing). Following on from the cast’s first digital get-together and read-through of the adapted script, we are embarking on a journey into the world of audio plays!
We can’t say it’s been easy. Four months of mourning for live theatre and foggy lockdown head doesn’t do a playwright any good. And the pubs were closed. Yet now, ladies, gentlemen and everyone in-between we are delighted to be returning to the rehearsal room (albeit in cyber space) and are almost ready to buckle down and get recording! Lowland: The Play is on its way. And we can’t wait for you to hear it…
So, what’s it all about?
‘Let me get this straight. You’re telling me I have to present some new fangled resources centre, right in the middle of the scheme, with little to no idea what it will actually be used for. On top of all this, they’re all here, Barnside, for a consultation. Only, there is no such thing. I’m nothing more than a salesman. And if I don’t do this. I destroy three years of clawing my way back out of the gutter…for a job.’
Barnside is sinking and the residents are on the edge of revolution. The local council, in its bleary wisdom, have been drafted in to ease the tensions. Only, not everything is as it seems and sooner or later, something’s got to give.
A play in two acts, inspired by over 500 postcards reflecting on life in Dumfries written by Doonhamers. Lowland: The Play features a community cast, devised through collaboration with local writers’ groups, communities and members of the local council, Lowland is the tale of a consultation gone wrong.
As Angela, a council officer, prepares for a consultation, one year in the making, her boss throws a curve ball, eradicating all her best intentions, leaving her and her assistants in disarray and woefully unprepared. As a storm rages on outside, a community prepares a coup d’état…
Lowland is a tragi-comedy, offering a satirical and emotional look at the nature of community, power, local democracy and belonging.
Next Up: Meet The Cast