For those of you that read my blog regularly, you know I have a fascination with site specific theatre. Today I’ve been reading about a extraordinary project by the National Theatre of Scotland, who are renown for works that push boundaries. This new work, that is currently still ‘in progress’ struck a particular cord as it has the place of cars in our society at its heart. As someone who calls Hong Kong home, where the car is king, despite having one of the best (and growing) public transport systems in the world, I thought I would share it with you.
The piece is called Ignition and is set and takes place in the Shetland Islands in Scotland.The idea for Ignition grew from the death in a car crash of a young man called Stuart Henderson. It slowly developed into a project exploring the Shetlanders’ relationship with oil and the combustion engine. It has resulted in this joint creation, developed over the past over six months, by National Theatre of Scotland and Shetland Arts with members of the Shetland community. What makes it extraordinary is the way hundreds of individual stories (many gathered by Lowri Evans, dressed as the “White Wife” of folklore) meld into experience that everyone can recognise, identify with and participate in – rather in the way that you sometime see one big image made up of thousands of tiny photographs (selection and combination by dramaturg Rob Evans). But, because you are part of the event, you are also making your own picture as you go along. The fire that lights Ignition is, it turns out, the seemingly simple blending of other people’s lives into our own and opening both into something universal.
By way of explanation, here is a quote from the NTS’s website:
Over the past six months, the National Theatre of Scotland has invited all of Shetland’s inhabitants to explore our bittersweet relationship with the automobile – how it shapes us, defines us, supports us, frees us, challenges our attitudes towards our dwindling resources and, sometimes, kills us. You have told us your stories and now we are ready to take you on the Ignition journey. Set in three locations across Shetland, the site-specific Ignition performances will carry you away on a shared car adventure. The stories will transport you to one indoor and two outdoor locations. At these locations you will see, hear and be a part of the stories that have been collected in the course of the Ignition project. Stories of Shetlanders who have given the White Wife a lift, knitted panels for the Car Yarns car, helped create the music written about the road from Sumburgh to Skaw, taken part in a Sunday Tea conversation, told us their secrets in the Car Confessional, or just taken time out to tell us their car stories. After ten thrilling days of immersive car-theatre between 20th and 29th March, Ignition culminates in a short, but unforgettable, one-off finale for all the Ignition audiences on 30th March in a stunning outdoor location in Brae. The stories will be experienced through exhilarating drive-in theatre, the movement discipline of parkour, music, hitchhikers, dance and text, and will take you on a journey that you will never forget.
If you click the image below, you can watch the BBC report on Ignition
NTS have also recorded a couple of videos about the project and you can watch them here:
The National Theatre of Scotland’s own blog gives you a real feel of the whole creative process behind the project.