Elizabeth Newman discusses The Pitlochry Festival: “The companies of actors will make these productions very special”

As the summer season approaches, Scotland’s only repertory theatre prepares from one of its most intricate and exciting runs. Guillermo Nazara chats with its Artistic Director about this year’s programming, to learn the most interesting facts about an offer suiting almost all genres and audiences.

Revivals of great classic plays and a musical as well as productions of new original material. Would you say that this is Pitlochry’s busiest season?

It’s definitely a season brimming with lots of different offers for sure!

As an artistic director, what’s been your process and criteria when deciding upon the programming?

I begin with thinking about what audiences will be interested in experiencing and offer them the best night out at the theatre. Then, simultaneously I’m also thinking about what is obsessing the world and what questions we need to ask as a society or within our communities. Finally I am also thinking about what artists and creatives, especially actors, might want to be in and make.

How challenging is it to bring pieces so well-known (and with other currently running productions) such as Gypsy or A Streetcar Named Desire?

It’s a joy more than anything else and a real privilege to be working on such fantastic material! What’s really exciting this season is that both works have not been performed in Scotland in the last 20 years so new audiences will have an opportunity to see these iconic plays.

What, would you say, makes these revivals different?

The ensemble. The companies of actors will make these productions very special.

What can you tell us about the new plays that are coming to the studio theatre?

Three of the plays are by writers we have never produced the work of before – Isla Cowan (To the Bone), Uma Nada-Rajah (The Great Replacement) and Pauline Lockhart and Alan Penman (Forever Home). What is also really exciting is that we will be reviving Martin McCormick’s acclaimed new play from last year, Maggie Wall, which will be having a future life at Aberdeen and out on tour.

What would you say poses a bigger responsibility: reviving old works or bringing new material?

I think each brings with it a responsibility. I also feel like old works are made best when they are approached like new plays and new plays are done best when they are approached like classics too!

Apart from the staging of new plays, does the theatre support new thriving artists in some other way?

Yes, we have different programmes to support artists at varying stages of their careers and we have an all year-round writers room too.

Another interesting feature of this season is the use of its open-air theatre, what kind of productions are we to expect there?

You can expect an exciting new adaptation of The Secret Garden which’ll be suitable for the entire family and a revival of Lesley Hart’s acclaimed adaptation of Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Lipstick, Ketchup and Blood which we did last year. It’s set to be a joyful and very entertaining experience going to the amphitheatre this year.

Proscenium, studio and open-air. Which particular challenges do you find in each of them?

Proscenium you need to really focus on making sure the audience get all of the more subtle and intimate acting as well as the bigger emotions. The studio is a space for brand new Scottish plays so it’s about encouraging audiences to try something new and then lastly open-air, I guess you can’t know what the weather is going to do but I would say we always have much better weather than folks imagine AND it’s odd it always seems to clear up for the show.

Are there any future plans already in the making for Pitlochry Festival Theatre?

Oh yes, lots! Exciting new musicals are being developed as well as lots of plans to revive some of the best dramas, as well as commissioning lots of new plays too!

Why come to Pitlochry Festival Theatre this Summer?

Because you can see lots of different things all over the summer. It is made by a fantastic ensemble of twenty-one actors and many, many, many creative teams.

The Pitlochry Festival Theatre 2023 season runs from 19 May – 30 September. Tickets and further information are available on the following link.

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