Wednesday 14 June 2017

Submarine Time Machine Blog


Tuesday 2nd May
“In 1952 there was a submarine that went up the Forth and Clyde Canal towards Rosyth to be decommissioned. It did make it to Rosyth and it did get decommissioned. But nobody believes that story. They want to believe our story; the submarine actually moored here, and when this new building was built, we found it under that island just there. We went inside and found that it wasn’t just a submarine, it was a submarine time machine…” I smile as Simon Sharkey, dream weaver, conjures another tale for another keen listener, eager with excitement to hear the rest of the story...

This project has been vast and varied: from making tiles as an art installation with a local high school  and a women’s recovery group; to finding stories and building choreography with a group of men from Possil; to rehearsing on the canal with students from Glasgow Academy of Music and Theatre Arts; to doing Tai Chi in Possil Church with a group of Chinese women.

Being part of the project full time has been absolutely invaluable. To be so embedded in the whole process of creating such a large piece of theatre is really fantastic- it has allowed me to view the whole process. While normally, I might only be contracted to come in to development week and then full-time rehearsals and production week, this programme has allowed me to meet with the different groups being engaged, be aware of marketing and press aspects and to witness the process of permissions and planning and scheduling.

Monday, May 8th
Today, we had auditions to fill the final spot in our professional cast. Getting to discuss casting with someone who has such extensive experience was really insightful- can they deliver what we want them to deliver? And do they fit well with the rest of the cast? A happy cast is high priority.

The afternoon was spent developing a movement piece, which will be a blend of British Sign Language and dance, for a story about two people who are different, but fall in love. The text has been broken down into story sections, and movements chosen which are an interpretation of the BSL translation for that section. This performance has several different elements, performed in several different ways, but I don’t want to give too much away!

Monday, May 15th
A busy, busy Monday that began with catching up on emails about costume and schedules and casting. Followed by an in-depth chat about video design and how filming, editing and experiencing film in 360 degrees works to create a fully immersive experience.

Thursday, May 18th
Thursdays are proving to be incredibly busy on this project- from organising schedules in the morning, to a tile making workshop in PossilPoint Community Centre, to a movement workshop all about fishing, a quick breather, and then another workshop about how to operate a submarine time machine!

Friday, May 19th
I knew from the start that this project was big, but I mean, it’s really, really big: 12 different performance areas; over 100 cast members, who are a mixture of professional actors, musical theatre students, primary and secondary school students, as well as lots of members of the local community; and an installation that happens alongside the performances. The script has been written; rehearsals are well underway; the costumes have been designed; the set is starting to be built; props are being made; songs have been written; sculptures are being made; filming is being done and edited; schedules are being drawn up; technical plans are being made; risk assessments and site visits and comfort points- we are certainly picking up speed, with one month until the show!

It really is such a great opportunity to be working on this kind of project. Normally, I would be working with one group towards one performance, that takes place inside a theatre. So the fact that this project is engaging with 15 different groups of people on 12 sections of one show, which takes place outside- along a canal- is very different indeed! It is an incredibly ambitious project- I remember writing a proposal at university for a project with five different groups creating one show and performing it inside a theatre and being told it was very ambitious- so this is a bit off the charts! But the Learn team here at the National Theatre of Scotland and all of the staff on Submarine Time Machine are really solid- and the whole project has been so well planned, delegated and delivered, that it is a real joy to be working on.


Thursday 15th June

It’s nearing the end of tech week, and the show is really coming together. The costumes look fantastic; the set is mesmerizing; the natural backdrop of a site-specific production is just jaw-dropping; and the performers are incredibly engaging.

It is at this point that I think back to when I first considered applying for this role- knowing the dizzying heights of the quality of work that National Theatre of Scotland produce, and seeing that kind of work developed with, for, and surrounded by a local community right here in Glasgow, was just something that I needed to be a part of.

I remember having a conversation during the development week for Submarine Time Machine about how amazing the project would be, but also the potential for it to be incredibly challenging: People might refuse to engage with us at all; people might engage but then be unable to commit to the project for a wide variety of reasons; people may decide not to come and see the show and we’ll have no audience. These are quite extreme examples, but have undoubtedly been known to occur during participatory arts projects in areas of multiple deprivation. And that is the fear. That the art will be rejected by the people and the areas that it has been inspired by.

Through a number of factors (including just some really fantastic people), quite the opposite has happened. The members of the local community we have been working with have been incredibly engaged, highly committed, and have been promoting the show to all their friends and family and local communities!

It really is brilliant to see people who never thought theatre was anything that they could be part of,  excelling in storytelling and building their skills, confidence and enthusiasm for performance; to see individuals and groups honored for who they are and what they have done within their community; to see people opening up, allowing their perspective of others within their community to be shifted; to experience people in the local community catching glimpses of the show as we rehearse on-site and being completely baffled and awestruck, and eager to know what we’re up to…


Monday 19th June

Production week is finally here!

Come and join us on our fantastical journey through time!

Join us as we weave stories from the past, present and future of the Forth and Clyde canal and its community, via the magic of a Submarine Time Machine!

(performances for schools/groups)

(performances for general public)


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