A Lot of Fun: NTS’s Govan Experiment

“It is an easygoing environment, a social experiment and a place to kick back at the weekend. It’s high quality theatre, visual art, computer games, a pint with your mates with music thrown in it.” So says Angie Bual, co-producer of the National Theatre of Scotland’s latest project: Allotment.

Allotment is a high-concept theatrical experiment that has artists collaborate on a one-night-only event. The inspiration came from the innovative work that a group of theatre companies were doing, including notable companies like Punchdrunk and SHUNT. “Both companies have attracted audiences who want a night out with their mates and find the theatricality of the environment exciting and sociable,” Bual says. “I wanted to branch out of working with theatre makers, to work with visual artists, musicians and other partners.”

On the choice of location, Bual states “It was enormously important to set Allotment in the right place. Govan is partway through a regeneration period which has seen an influx of community arts work. I wanted to work with the community to create a good night out that can happen right in the centre of the community rather than in the West End.”

“We have rooted Allotment in the local shopping centre which is a terrific opportunity to reimagine that space and to have fun with a big disused space. We have worked with local artists and businesses to make Allotment as Govan-grown as possible.”

Designing the inaugural production in October was Claire Halleran. “Angie got me and five artists in a room, and we began with Polanski’s The Tenant and a burnt house as a starting point. From that, the five artists came together and created a story.”

As the designer, Halleran saw her job as being the person who would “make everything fit.” The end result was an art installation that worked as a murder mystery. Audience members took a promenade journey through different stations, and throughout the evening the audience pieced together multiple threads of an evolving story.

Talking about witnessing the actual production, Halleran says with pride that “Nobody had to say what to do or where to look. It just happened. And that’s what we wanted, but we were surprised it all happened as easily.” She was surprised how the audience interacted with the space and her design concepts. “I find it exciting to see people’s interaction with it. I get a kick out of it when people “get” what you’re trying to do.”

With the thematic concept of ‘games and gaming’ and a completely new team put together, the second Allotment promises to be a vastly different experience. Part of this new team is well-regarded theatre artist Kieran Hurley. For his contribution to Allotment, Hurley is looking at ways of “playing with the rules of social behaviour.”

“The exciting thing is playing with that audience. So, it’s playing with that strange level of engagement and seeing how people respond to some of the stuff we put in front of them. We aren’t imposing a narrative or anything like that but more just providing a lot of interesting things to see and do.”

Speaking about the artistic opportunities the production has given him, Hurley says that it is “unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before.” He sees Allotment as a fantastic opportunity to reach out to Govan, both as an artistic community and as an audience. “But also, as I see it, there’s a sort of secondary aim there which is about creating a challenging brief for young artists so that we can work with artists of other disciplines so we can develop our own practice.”

Hurley seems to express the main notion that everyone involved wants the audience to walk away with. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I think that that’s the main thing. Obviously intelligent and thought-provoking, but first and foremost it’s going to be fun and accessible while having a nice social time.”

Written for The Skinny


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