Drama in the galleries: Lung Ha’s Theatre Company bring The Hold to National Museum of Scotland

Having only joined Lung Ha’s Theatre Company in October 2013, The Hold is the first production I have worked on for the company. My previous experiences of drama have always been as a performer at an amateur level, so it’s been interesting for me to see how it works on a larger scale professional production and from a more administrative perspective. What I’ve witnessed has shown me the phenomenal amount of behind the scenes work that goes into a production. Even before rehearsals began there were script revisions, cast auditions and production team decisions.

Rehearsing The Hold
Left to right: Teri Robb, Anna Walsh, John Edgar, Maria Oller and Mark Howie rehearsing The Hold. Photo by Tom Hutter.

As I wasn’t a regular attendee of rehearsals, my connection to the show hasn’t perhaps been as intimate as others, but I’ve always felt wholly connected to The Hold because there are so many other facets to concern myself with, including making funding requests, booking rehearsal space and publicising the show on social media. When I do get to rehearsals, it’s fantastic to see the leaps forward the cast have made since my last visit and I’m always struck by their high level of professionalism. With disabled performers still fairly rare in professional theatre, I feel very privileged to be assisting in the creation of not just a good play (which it is), but a piece that showcases how disabled performers have just as much ability to immerse you in a narrative and evoke a strong emotional reaction as any other performer.

Rehearsing The Hold
Derek Darvell and John Edgar rehearsing The Hold. Photo by Tom Hutter.

Although the actor is undoubtedly important, when performing in school productions I was often too quick to let the attention and the stage time give rise to an intoxicating but inflated sense of self-worth. However, working off stage has made me appreciate the production process in a totally different manner. I have watched The Hold grow from a seedling concept into a towering timber giant with various elements (costume, design, marketing, etc) branching off, but all connected together by the trunk. Seeing the play develop like this has brought home how, although the audience may be watching the actors, what they are really looking at is the culmination of a multitude of people’s time and energy and with one missing component, the finished product could look quite different.

This idea of shared responsibility has been especially notable because The Hold is a collaborative project with National Museums Scotland. As a site-specific promenade piece inside the National Museum of Scotland, The Hold has frequently thrown up hiccoughs that wouldn’t necessarily exist in a traditional theatrical venue: what to use as a dressing room, how to transport set to a specific area, ensuring the safety of the museum collections, and so on. But with such a wealth of knowledge to draw on, a solution is never too far away.

Rehearsing The Hold
Kay-Ann Jacobs, Kenny Ainslie, Leigh Flynn, Colin McIllveny and Keith Watson rehearsing The Hold. Photo by Tom Hutter.

Because the Museum is an institution designed to immerse the general public in its collections and exhibitions, performing inside it gives a sense of immediacy with the audience. Theatre is sometimes associated with the privileged classes, but performing in a museum (a space for everyone) transcends this perceived divide, giving a stronger sense of connectivity between performers and viewers. I have learned a great deal while working on The Hold, but most importantly it has been a hugely enjoyable experience and I look forward to seeing the finished production.

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