Boilerhouse in Aberdeen

Feature in Issue 5-4 | Winter 1993

Edinburgh’s Boilerhouse theatre company have headed north to Aberdeen to co-produce a new piece at The Lemon Tree. Director Paul Pinson, administrator Rachael Bailey, and Lemon Tree administrator Shona Powell, have instigated a far-reaching outreach programme to complement performances. Rachael and Shona talk here about the work.

Julie Allardyce is written by Duncan McLean, winner of the 1993 Somerset Maugham Award for his collection of short stories Bucket of Tongues. It has been commissioned with Scottish Arts Council funding specially for an Aberdeen audience. The eponymous Julie is an oil-rig worker, her brother works the land, and the tension between these traditional and contemporary north-east livelihoods begs the question – is blood thicker than oil?

Aberdeen is a vibrant and bustling city at the heart of the Grampian region which has a population of close on half a million – try getting a hotel room midweek – and yet there are no permanent theatre companies, and no ongoing Scottish Arts Council funding for local companies.

In this environment, The Lemon Tree burst onto the scene in spring 1992 and the Cafe Theatre quickly established a six/seven night weekly music and comedy programme well regarded by audiences and performers alike. Use of the Studio Theatre for small-scale touring drama and dance productions is at an exciting development stage. The co-production with Boilerhouse, and the accompanying access and audience development programme, marks a new phase in Shona Powell’s plans to develop the venue as an arts centre and a vital resource. ‘Julie Allardyce fulfils a major element of The Lemon Tree’s policy to create new work with a contemporary relevance in the north-east. Not only does it offer north-east performers a unique opportunity to work on their own patch, it also creates opportunities for local photographers, theatre enthusiasts, designers, students of drama, and anyone who has ever wanted to know more about how performance is created.’

Throughout the seven weeks of rehearsal and performance of Julie Allardyce, there’s access to all areas. All events are open and, apart from performances, are free.

Paul Pinson, whose work with Boilerhouse (formerly Mandela Theatre Company) has won numerous awards, is leading performance workshops right at the start, and participants will have the opportunity to be involved at various stages through the creative process.

Rehearsals are being thrown open to school groups studying Higher Drama (16-17 year-olds) from across the Grampian region. Duncan McLean will read and discuss his work. The show’s designer, Bryan Angus, will lead hands-on workshops and provide a chance to get involved in the actual production. The performances are supported by discussions before and after, the former for school groups attending the show, and the latter with writer, director, designer and performers present.

The access programme is designed with two major points in mind. Firstly, to help satisfy the demand by Grampian schools for their students of Higher Drama, specifically the ‘Contemporary Scottish Drama’ element. Secondly, to help enlarge the current constituency of the Lemon Tree with events that have diverse appeal for different age groups, programmed in the venue, in a local school, and at Aberdeen University. Local community groups have been targeted with information. The access programme is possible with the support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Part of Boilerhouse’s policy is to present theatre in Scottish schools, and Paul Pinson has previously worked in T.I.E. with Edinburgh’s Theatre Workshop as well as running programmes for performers in the area. Bryan Angus has been Resident Designer at Theatre Workshop, and programmed the community component of the Aberdeen Alternative Festival in 1991 and 1992.

In addition to the workshop programme, the actual performances of Julie Allardyce provide a basis to introduce new people to the Lemon Tree’s Studio and Boilerhouse’s work. Aberdeen oil companies are receiving information, local hotels, the Douglas and Imperial, are supporting the production, and the government initiative Grampian Enterprise are funding an extensive and far reaching marketing programme.

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Issue 5-4
p. 12