The Skinny, 31st July, 2014

Paines Plough: The Art of Collaboration

 

Bringing an exclusively designed, brand-new venue into the Fringe brochure, Paines Plough find collaborators in Northern Stage and Summerhall

 

FEATURE BY ERIC KAROULLA.

 

Designed by Lucy Osborne and Emma Chapman in collaboration with Charcoalblue and Howard Eaton, Roundabout is Paines Plough's pop-up theatre in the round (as suggested by its name.) The 168-seater can be packed in the back of a van without needing staff who are specifically trained to assemble and dismantle it. WhileRoundabout doesn't accommodate elaborate or bulky set design, the proximity of the audience to the action promises a 3D, live-theatre experience unlike any other.

"In 2010, we had the idea of building our own portable theatre so that when we were touring and we wanted to take work to parts of the country that didn't have existing theatre infrastructure, we had somewhere to take our work to," explains George Perrin, co-artistic director for Paines Plough. "So that we really could tour to parts of the country that didn't have a theatre at all; we could go into a village hall, a school hall or a leisure centre, but that we weren't giving people a compromised experience, it would still be a high-quality, really carefully considered, exciting, experience."

After four years of prototyping, planning, and designing, this portable theatre will open for the first time at the Fringe, featuring eight shows in total – four by Paines Plough (Lungs,The Initiate, Every Brilliant Thing, and Our Teacher's a Troll), and four by Northern Stage (Britannia Waves the Rules, Beats North, Dead to Me, Show 6) – to showcase how Roundabout is meant to work on tour. 

Paines Plough are celebrating their 40th year, but they feel the need to partner with more Fringe-experienced companies, like Newcastle-based company Northern Stage, who are there for the third year in a row. Moving into King's Hall, after last year's Fringe spent in St. Stephen's, Northern Stage will be round the corner from Summerhall and Roundabout. In total, Northern Stage will be looking after sixteen companies, which is a big step up in scale compared to last year.

"So much about why we do Edinburgh is trying to create opportunity for artists, to nurture and foster collaboration between artists, and to try and minimise the risk – either financial, or creative – of taking work to Edinburgh," states Lorne Campbell, artistic director for Northern Stage. "A big part of that is about a critical context, so you can put newer artists or work of less profile alongside the more established and give the audience the confidence to take the risk on the thing they don't know, because of its association with the thing they do.

Collaborating with Paines Plough, the Lyric Hammersmith's Secret Theatre project, and Summerhall, as well as the Forest Fringe across the street, Northern Stage seem to be in the midst of a relocation of some exciting, ambitious and intelligent work, away from the geographical centre of the Fringe – literally, on the fringe of the Fringe. 

"What Summerhall have achieved over the last few years is remarkable," points out Campbell. "The energy they put into that spirit of the Fringe of 'here's a place of creativity, of internationalism, where the boundaries are being blurred.' And the long-standing ethos of Paines Plough to support experimentation, new writers, trying to establish new voices. And into that you drop their Roundabout project which is so collaborative in its ethos and it's about taking that very very best work and getting it to audiences who might not be able to access it. They all feel like very natural bedfellows."