Current affairs are a major inspiration behind a new piece of political theatre by Scottish Youth Theatre National Ensemble 2019.
This summer, a company of 20 radical young artists will tour a new production which will make us think twice the next time we go online.
Act of Repair began life when the company was tasked with discussing the subject of Brexit. They initially explored the allegations that the campaign used online technology to influence public opinion. This led them on a creative journey of investigation, featuring talks by guest-speakers plus plenty of research including reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power- a ground-breaking book by academic Shoshana Zuboff.
In May, the company announced their summer production would be Act of Repair, which will tour Scotland in July thanks to support from Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund. The piece is devised and performed by the company and Ensemble member Hannah Hassan (23) from Bute explains more about what the audience can expect:
“Nearly everyone has signed up to aps, social media and search engines. They ask us to agree to the terms and conditions – a wee box that most of us tick without even reading the T & Cs. When we discussed this as a group, one company member said – I know that company are using my data – but so what? Act of Repair explores the so what.”
The subject has been in the news recently, with Facebook in-particular being scrutinised for how it has been used to provide a platform for political influencers or sinister forces. The subject was investigated in more detail by Shoshana Zuboff’s book which was a major inspiration to the group as Hannah explains:
“In the past, capitalism has involved us engaging as customers. But in this new data age, we are no longer the customers – we are the raw materials.”
The role of Director of Act of Repair has been assumed by Brian Ferguson – a face more familiar to Scottish audiences for his acting career on stage and screen. Last year he took the title role in the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac. More recently he graced the silver screen in the Scottish film Beats and television audiences will know him from The Victim, Trust Me, Line of Duty, Doctors and Outlander to name just a few of his credits. He has also appeared in acclaimed productions by the RSC, the Bush Theatre and the Royal Court. On choosing the Scottish Youth Theatre National Ensemble for his major directorial debut, Brian explains:
“I began my journey as an actor at Scottish Youth Theatre when I attended their Summer Courses when I was younger, so I’m delighted to be returning to where it all started for me.
Plus I was really drawn to the opportunity to work with a large ensemble. As an artist I’ve always sought out ensemble work – the idea that everyone in the room has a voice and has ownership of the piece. The age group of this company was really interesting to me. Young people aged 16 – 25 from across Scotland forming their opinion about what theatre should be and what it should do is so inspiring. So I was delighted when I was invited to be the Director of the 2019 company.”
Despite exploring technological forces and capitalism, Brian says the show won’t be hugely technical or futuristic;
“The focus will be on storytelling. Our intention is that we use the whole of the Ensemble, filling the stage with lots of voices.”
The National Ensemble 2019 is the latest incarnation of Scottish Youth Theatre’s flagship project which was launched in 2017, as Creative Producer Mahri Reilly explains;
“The National Ensemble is made up of 20 emerging artists who are selected every year from auditions across Scotland. They are chosen for their exceptional potential as performers and theatre makers.
“This year’s company represents the wealth of artistic talent Scotland has to offer with artists from Bute, Inverness, Arbroath, Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, Fife, Renfrewshire and Clydebank to name just a few. I’m confident that this year’s company will continue to deliver the high standard of theatre that has been established by previous Ensembles.”
Act of Repair opens at CCA in Glasgow on Friday 19 July and will tour to Eden Court Theatre (Inverness), The Lemon Tree (Aberdeen), Theatre Royal Dumfries and McLaren High School as part of Callander Summerfest. More information can be found at www.scottishyouththeatre.org.