Writer Gavin Yule talks about the experience that inspired his debut play.

The play was inspired by an event that happened to me about two years ago. I won't say exactly what happened because there's a similar scene in the play but I can say it was a verbal disability hate crime.

For a while after this I was angry at the world and angry at the society that we still live in, a world where disability hate crime happens. One day, one of my friends suggested writing my thoughts down to help with the healing process. They only way I know how to write is in a script format, because I went to a drama college where you have to write your own scripts. So, that night I sat down and wrote a short script which in the end became the second scene of the play. You could say the play was inspired by my own anger.

I think people should watch the play as it would open their eyes to the fact that even in today's society disability hate crimes still happen. I would hope if they watched it, it would make them think. They should also watch it because it's a moving and funny show.

Overall, the play took about two and a half years to write. I never really intended for it to be produced – writing the short script that night was really just a way for me to begin the healing process and clear my head. But when a director friend said I should work on it further I actually considered developing it into a full-blown play.

I also had a series of mentoring sessions with Andrew Edwards, a fellow playwright who mentored me through the development and redrafting of the play. These sessions were useful to me as, this being my first play, Andrew was able to help me see the full picture of the play rather than individual parts. As an actor, this was something I initially struggled with. Actors tend to focus on specific parts and scenes while a playwright has to look at the bigger picture.

Working with Andrew allowed me to further develop the characters and the plot and therefore made The Bus Stop the interesting piece that it is.

These mentoring sessions also showed me that as a playwright you have to write the play you want to write and not worry about what everyone else thinks.

It was a very long process, a lot of writer's blocks, a few redrafts and adding and deleting scenes and characters… and here we are, two and a half years later!

I'm very proud to say that this is my writing debut and I don't want to stop here. I do intend to write more.

Gavin Yule

The Bus Stop is available to watch on Traverse 3 until 8 December. Click on the following link to access www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event/the-bus-stop

 

Lung Ha Theatre Company member Gavin Yule debuts a play on disability hate crime: The Bus Stop

Book your tickets by following this link: www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event/the-bus-stop 

Presented as part of Traverse Theatre online festival, the rehearsed reading of The Bus Stop is now digitally available to worldwide audiences until Tuesday, 8 December. It is produced by us at Lung Ha Theatre Company. 

Inspired by real life events, The Bus Stop tells the story of a young wheelchair user, Jack (Gavin Yule), who experiences a disability hate crime. Jack struggles with his anger at the situation; and at the world which left him without a dad 6 months earlier. He keeps it all a secret from his mum Julia – and she has a secret of her own…

Writer and actor Gavin Yule said: “For a while after the incident happened to me, I was angry at the world and angry at the society that we still live in a world where disability hate crime is so common”.

“One day, one of my friends suggested writing my thoughts down to help with the healing process. The same night I sat down and wrote a short script which in the end became the second scene of the play. You could say the play was inspired by my own anger.”

Linda Crooks, Traverse Theatre Executive Producer said: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome our longstanding good friends Lung Ha, and Gavin’s new play, to Traverse 3. We applaud Lung Ha’s mentoring programme, developing Gavin as a writer, and Nicola with her first directing gig, culminating in this presentation of The Bus Stop. This excellent initiative loudly chimes with the Traverse’s determination to seek out and nurture new and diverse voices for our stages and bring them to the world.”

The Bus Stop was developed as part of Lung Ha Theatre Company’s new mentoring programme that saw writer Gavin Yule working with playwright Andrew Edwards – and director Nicola Tuxworth, also marking her debut in this role, working with the Company’s Artistic Director, Maria Oller.

The rehearsed reading of The Bus Stop took place over Zoom and also features Emma McCaffrey and Scott Davidson, both Lung Ha TC performers, and Ryan Duncan, member of the Lung Ha TC support team. Each of them will be portraying two different characters in the play.

The Bus Stop is now available to audiences worldwide as part of the Traverse Theatre online festival.

Not Panicky: Different Journeys

What seems like a simple presentation of a final project soon proves its power thanks to the hard work of Rachel Clive's direction and research, shared by her four performers.

Both the cast and crew showed appreciation in seeing an audience and the audience showed appreciation on seeing a live performance – especially one that sent them on a journey – each different and thus giving the individual audience member their own personal experience.  

The show is about many things but two themes became clear to me – one was about rivers. Water. The environment. What water is and why it's important. The other theme was the person. Each person's different lives. And here, the performers bravely open up to us about themselves. Euan Haytom tells us his autism won't define him while sharing his love and fear for the environment, Chloe Maxwell tells of her love for dancing and her sister with a beautiful movement piece. Alison MacKenzie's perfectly timed performance with perhaps my personal favourite film was a stand out (who doesn't love animals?), and Hughie McIntyre, the person with the most experience in life, tells us with blunt honesty of the 16 year "horror" of his time in Lennox Castle while remembering his joy at seeing the beauty of the environment outside that prison. 

We were very well informed of the restrictions and safety and the actors themselves kept each other safe by not standing too close. They somehow still seemed to interact and engage with each other which shows how skilled they have become even under the devastating circumstances. For me, having worked in the project very briefly, I knew how much work was done and I admire and applaud everyone involved.

5 stars

Emma McCaffrey

More information on Rachel Clive's work is available via the following link: https://rachoclyde.wixsite.com/rachelclive-projects

Images: Jessy Earl Photography

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads – Her Big Chance 

This performance of a monologue, called Her Big Chance, is a part of Alan Bennett’s TV series, Talking Heads, which is available on BBC iPlayer. It tells the story of a professional actress and slowly leads into her describing experiences of playing a character who she seems to have strong emtoions about.

At the start of the episode, she talks about the previous parts she has performed and opinions of herself as an actress. Lesley shows admiration for herself as she talks about what she likes about acting and how she felt these roles didn’t portray her abilities and true character.

While doing this, she expresses emotions I feel I can relate to as an actress myself, who also struggles to meet the expections of directors and writers. Later, she details her experience of going to audition for the role and why she felt she was chosen to play this character. She describes how she expressed her feelings about how she thought the character should be portrayed and why she disagreed with the other people involved in the film.

Lesley appeared determined that she was right about this character and felt they didn't know enough about the type of person they were trying to represent. Her language, changes in tone of voice, and use of facial expressions help convince the audience to agree with her on these matters. However, her views on the character she's playing seem to change later in the monologue as she goes on to describe her experience of filming for this performance.

The camera shows her in different scenery and at various angles to help convey her emotions while describing what she now thinks of this film. Being an actress myself, I think this monogue gives a realistic insight into the life of a professional whose opinion isn’t always taken into account. I definitely recommend watching this episode while it is still available on iPlayer.

Amy McCombes

You can watch this episode of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08ftpw4/alan-bennetts-talking-heads-series-1-4-her-big-chance

Ben Reid's Innocence 

A short film directed by Ben Reid, Innocence (2019) centres around a care home where a young man with Down syndrome is questioned by the police following a terrible accident….

This film was amazing to watch. Masterful storytelling that puts you on edge, a sense of fear and intimidation from start to end yet leaving you wanting more.

The film opens to the police finding a body outside what looks like a care home for people with disabilities. Elizabeth Noble (Alice Lowe) questions a member of staff on duty that night and a patient who was caught on camera. The two men happen to be brothers and both have a vendetta against another man – the staff member who was found dead that night.

Previous portrayals of characters with Down syndrome have thankfully always been performed by actors with the syndrome – only for the actors to find they are portraying one dimensional characters, often not being the focus, usually “happy” or even “dumbed-down”.  I’m pleased to say that the character of Dylan McCarthy (Tommy Jessop) felt complex and challenging which is exactly what any actor wants in a role. Jessop made you both feel sorry for Dylan’s predicament – especially with the increasingly insensitive and vile questioning (Noble hinting at the idea of his brother thinking of Dylan as a burden was very hard to listen to) he is faced with – yet somehow also despise him for his actions while hoping he could somehow get out of trouble.

I’d like to also mention Bethany Asher who portrayed Sarah Barnes, the unassuming girlfriend of Dylan – Asher showed a lot of vulnerability while showcasing her character’s intelligence and empathy for Dylan without saying a word. A very captivating performance and I hope to see her in more work.

Disability representation is at an all-time low despite 22% of UK’s population having a disability. I would love to see more films and theatre shows like this – with complex stories, writing and characters. As a disabled performer, I thank Ben Reid and his team for making this film that highlights some important issues with our society while giving Jessop and Asher a chance to showcase their talent by trusting them with complex characters.

5 stars

Emma McCaffrey

More information on Innocence is available under the following link: www.innocencethefilm.com/

 

Dante or Die's User Not Found

Dante Or Die in collaboration with Marmelo present User Not Found, an immersive piece designed for smartphone and tablet created by Daphna Attias, Terry O'Donovan & Chris Goode.

As we, the audience, put our headphones on, we are immediately transformed into the world of and onto the phone screen of Terry (Terry O'Donnavan), sitting there with the music of Norah Jones in the background and a mint tea. Terry spends his day with us in a coffee shop.

This play has both funny and incredibly moving moments especially when it transpires that Terry's ex-boyfriend Luka has recently passed away. Through immersive sounds, images and music we get to know Terry as he goes through the grieving process and also tries to process Luka’s digital identity as he gets to know it better.

Terry O'Donnavan's performance as Terry is both humorous and touching as he takes the audience on a journey through the life that they shared and also snapshots of Luka’s life that Terry didn't know about.

Part of The Traverse online festival User not Found is an intimate look into the mind of someone experiencing loss and dealing with the memories we keep and those we let go of…

Gavin Yule 

Available on Traverse Theatre website until 10th of October by clicking on the following link: www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event/user-not-found  

 

Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters

Performed by Imelda Staunton and directed by Jonathan Kent, A Lady of Letters is part of the Talking Heads series written by Alan Bennett. 

Poetic dialogue and emotionally charged acting come together to create a remake of Alan Bennett's A Lady of Letters, part of the Talking Heads series presented by BBC.

First performed by Patricia Routledge in 1988, now Imelda Staunton takes on the role of Miss Irene Ruddock. Miss Ruddock, as she prefers to be called, is the self-appointed letter writer of her community. She continually writes letters about community issues including hearse drivers smoking during funerals. Disabled access and the state of the streets. Although these letters can be seen as a way of being active in the community, Bennett cleverly injects letter subjects into the monologue – such as the length of the Archbishop of Canterbury's hair or the number of policemen who wear glasses – and by inserting these Bennett gradually paints a picture of a lonely woman who's only friend is the pen she writes with. It's a real friend.

Staunton's performance throughout this piece shows off her incredible acting ability. She moves through the piece at a steady pace and plays a woman who seems like a “battle axe” but deep down she is a lonely, depressed woman. This is shown effortlessly by Staunton throughout.

Jonathan Kent's direction, although it tends to focus on the dark side of the monologue, managed to create a world in which we see something that humans often tend to keep hidden and that is the vulnerability that everyone has. Through Kent's direction and Staunton's performance we see Miss Ruddock as not just a nosey neighbour but someone who needs a friend and someone to talk to.

Gavin Yule

A Lady of Letters is available on BBC iPlayer by clicking the following link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08ftr1n 

 

Helen Macdonald: The Natural World Beyond ‘H is For Hawk’

Presented as part of Edinburgh International Book Festival. 

In this event Helen Macdonald discusses her work and ideas with fellow author and the Guardian's chief culture writer, Charlotte Higgins. 

This event was available live on the Edinburgh Book Festival website and consisted of an interview through a video call with Helen Macdonald, the author of the book H is For Hawk, followed by a live question and answer session. The book, an account of her experience of training a young goshawk at a time of personal grief in her life, won a number of awards, including the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Book of the Year. 

Despite not being there in person, the audience members were successfully included in the conversation through a chat box for typing questions. Several times during the interview, the author read out passages of her book, which vividly describes nature through metaphors and discusses current political and environmental issues.

I enjoy this aspect a lot because I love reading and have started writing some stories for Tiphereth, a residential care home just outside Edinburgh where I live and work and which is part of the Camphill Community and day service.

Helen Macdonald made the book and the interview personal through her own experiences of being in nature and expressed strong opinions on conservation and the destruction of habitats. The author’s reading of the book helped me visualise the events and get a sense of the atmosphere of the story. It also inspired me to use language in different ways and explore further new topics of interest.

The author responded well to the questions asked by the audience and surprised them by bringing out her pet parrot. Unfortunately, this show is not available on demand but can’t be missed if it is ever on again. In the meantime, I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who enjoys reading about nature and current affairs.

Amy McCombes

Removed

Presented as part of Traverse Festival Online. 

Prime Cuts production of Removed by Fionnuala Kennedy, performed by Conor O’Donnell and directed by Emma Jordan. 

A moving yet at times brutally honest account of life in the care system.

The story centres around Adam (Connor O'Donnell) who recounts his experience of being in the care system from childhood to adult years.

The play is incredibly hard-hitting at times as Adam recounts several experiences of a life in different care homes, including meeting Bill and Beatrice and being separated from his six-year old brother. It is performed as a monologue and features fragmented images from Adam's past (created by Conan Mcivor), both these elements work beautifully as an invitation into Adam's world. We witness some incredibly emotionally-charged and moving moments.

Connor O'Donnell as Adam gives an amazing performance throughout the piece as he takes the audience on Adam's emotional journey, navigating through his life and trying to understand what is happening to him.

Written by Fionnuala Kennedy and directed by Emma Jordan, Removed gives a voice to someone we rarely hear from. If you ever have a chance – catch it, it’s a must-see.

5 stars

Gavin Yule 

Ian and Sheena  

Presented as part of National Theatre of Scotland's Scenes For Survival

Richard Conlon, Gail Watson Natalie MacDonald star in a lively lockdown follow-up to the smash-hit satire “My Left/Right Foot: The Musical” from writer/director Robert Softley Gale.

I really enjoyed Birds of Paradise’s hit “My Left/Right Foot” so I was very happy to see that Robert Softley Gale was bringing some sort of sequel to what I considered a flawless production. While filled with great humour that I could personally relate to, it also forces its audience to reflect on past and even present portrayals of disabled people in media.

In this ‘sequel’, Gail Watson, Natalie MacDonald and Richard Conlon appear via Zoom in a lively discussion about putting on “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”. All three performers are incredible talents full of energy who are great at showcasing character development (even if poor MacDonald is barely acknowledged and called “the woman who only talks with her hands”).

The dismay of not being able to work, of not being with fellow actors and friends reminds of the theatre community’s reaction to the lockdown – the virus still causing the loss of jobs and the seemingly endless debates on the “importance of theatre”.

The NTS’s “Scenes for Survival” have been a great way to get the public to appreciate the hard work of theatre creators while theatres around the country remain closed. The only “bad” thing I found was that it was pretty short and I wanted to see more – I guess that’s a good thing. I was pleased to see captions and MacDonald doing the BSL interpretation as is and should be expected from any video shown on the BBC and meant for everyone.

It’s important to note that Birds of Paradise’s artistic vision is “of a culture where disabled artists are recognised for the excellence of their work, celebrated for the stories that they bring to the stage and are a vital part of the artistic landscape of Scotland.” Their show “My Left/Right Foot” highlighted how clueless both the general public and the arts overall are to disability representation. American actor Geena Davis said that films act as codes of conduct – teaching us how to deal with people who are “different” whether that is race or disability. The fact that in 2020 there’s still a severe resistance to discussing this issue makes me to think that more films created by people with disabilities should be out there. Or perhaps that is too simple a solution.

But I can’t tell you how many times I have been part of uncomfortable discussions because someone saw “my” disability in a film or play – including “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nigh-time”. A lot of uncomfortable discussions have been had with little change despite the often-enthusiastic support of those partaking. But I consider it a victory when I am asked about my autism and I can give an answer that makes the person decide to learn to be more empathetic and support the disabled in our fight to have a fulfilling life.

As a disabled actor myself, I personally don’t mind being called an inspiration if it means inspiring others to reflect on their own thoughts on the disabled. A safe environment isn’t just about performing without fear of the Covid-19 but, for me, it should be a place where my needs and the needs of others are not in a constant threat of being denied or ignored. Why do I feel that won’t happen in the next 10 or 20 years?

There hasn’t been a lot to smile about in 2020 so thank you Birds of Paradise, National Theatre of Scotland, Robert Softley Gale, Richard Conlon, Gail Watson, Natalie MacDonald, Seth Hardwick, Sophie Cooper, Maureen Dalton, Rebecca Hamilton, Aileen Sherry, Richard Price and all those credited at the end of the film – your work is valued both on and off camera and on and off stage. I hope to be on stage myself soon.

4.8 stars

Emma McCaffrey

Ian and Sheena is available to watch online by clicking the following link: https://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com/latest/ian-and-sheena

 

 

Tireless Edinburgh altruist maintains fundraising efforts under lockdown to support three charities

SUPPORT THREE CHARITIES WALK HERE

#Richards6kChallenge

For many years Edinburgh and Penicuik local Richard Vallis has worked to setup, champion and support a range of brilliant organisations and charities in the city and beyond. Richard isn’t letting Covid-19 put a stop to his work, today pledging to walk a distance of 6k around his garden in Penicuik – an undertaking which presents a significant personal challenge having lost his leg 24 years ago to bone cancer and having had to learn to walk again as a result.  

Richard embarks on this mammoth task very much driven by his own altruistic spirit, a need to help others and an awareness of specific challenges given his own disability; and to continue to support three organisations which are very dear to his heart. All funds raised will be split equally between the following; Lothian Disability Sport, who promote sport & physical recreation for people with a disability which Richard has supported for many years, earning him the wonderful experience of taking part in the Queen's Baton Relay in 2014 before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Scottish charity Friends of Chitambo, which aims to support health measures in the hospital and surrounding Zambian district, a charity which was set up by Richard’s wife Jo who grew up in Zambia and us, Lung Ha Theatre Company, the leading theatre company in Scotland for people with a learning disability which Richard co-founded in 1984.

Richard Vallis in his garden.

Richard will begin his garden trek challenge Wednesday 20th May and aims to reach the finish line by early June, all while safely maintaining social distancing of course. He will be supported throughout by his wife Jo, his son Paul, who will be helping to document his journey, and by the very many friends Richard has made from each organisation his efforts are in aid of. Wider support is much needed, welcomed and appreciated and those who wish to donate can do so via Crowdfunder.

Richard Vallis said: “During lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic I thought I'd make use of my daily exercise to support Lung Ha, Lothian Disability Sport and Friends of Chitambo, three charities dear to my heart and do a sponsored walk within the garden. 100 times round the garden would be about 6 kilometres, 4 miles. With my disability, an above hip amputation, this will be quite a challenge and will require roughly twice as much energy than what would be needed prior to my amputation – but I'd hope to achieve it in about 3 weeks. I very much hope people see fit to support me in this effort to raise funds for these amazing organisations!”

Updates from Richard’s challenge will be shared across our social media channels using the hashtag #richards6kchallange:

Facebookwww.facebook.com/lunghas/

Twitter – @LungHasTheatre

Instagram – @lunghatheatre

Support Richard's Three Charities Walk HERE.

We at Lung Ha Theatre Company are very excited to introduce Lung Ha Wednesdays, a new online project in response to these dark, unprecedented times.

Starting from next week, #LungHaWednesdays will see a release of a full video of one of our previous shows on YouTube on Wednesday at 6pm for everyone to enjoy for free. The video will stay online for a week before the next show is released the following Wednesday at 6pm. This special project will see 6 Lung Ha Theatre Company shows shared with online audiences.

We are thrilled to announce the first #LungHaWednesdays show is We Are All Just Little Creatures, a 2019 co-production with Curious Seed and in association with Lyra. This life-affirming, devised show celebrates all the wonderful, weird and wee things about being alive, a very appropriate opener to this special project. Featuring dance and live music, We Are All Just Little Creatures was co-directed by Christine Devaney (Curious Seed), Maria Oller (Lung Ha Theatre Company) and Jo Timmins (Lyra).

To watch We Are All Just Little Creatures on Wednesday, 8 April at 6pm, follow this link. Then just gather everyone in your household, grab yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!

We would love to see pictures of everyone coming together for #LungHaWednesdays so make sure to join the Facebook event here to share those alongside any thoughts on the project!

Stay tuned on Twitter @LungHasTheatre for further show announcements.