On 26th June, Radio Summerhall Arts article, Leith’s Citadel Arts Group goes Virtual (not a typo!) announced news of the plans of a series of audio plays from the Leith based arts group.
Citadel Arts works with people of all ages to create theatre, with particular attention to older writers. The audio plays are a series of responses to the Coronavirus and life under lockdown created with a span of aspects and a mixture of sadness and humour that can be dark or otherwise.
First up was Alan Mountford’s tightly written wee play The Duchess of Kirkcaldy that opens with the sound of a set of footsteps falling on the platform of Aberdour Station. It was here back in the ‘60s that a man had met the love of his life, the aptly named Julia, when they shared a love of Beatles’ music and trains. Mountford has created a fusion in his mind of the train and Julia as the Duchess of Kirkaldy who, as the lyrics of Lennon’s song Cry Baby Cry tell us, was ‘… always late for tea’. Mark Kydd gives a committed and sensitive reading to this moving 7 minute play from Alan Mountford, who is clearly a big Beatles fan, that is laden with empathy for lost love and tinged with bittersweet memories.
Leaving this Shore takes another angle on loss and mutual friendship in this four-hander by Vincent Maguire. In his tale of West Coast fishermen, Donald (Adam Tomkins) faces loss and change as he visits his dying wife Myra (Laverne Edmunds), who still likes a wee swig of vodka, in the oncology unit. There is again a melding of the unseaworthy boat, not missed by the officious Piermaster (Charles Donnelly), that’s had one patch too many being ready to go and Myra being ready to go on her final journey. In such short pieces, having fewer characters is definitely a bonus for listeners with a phone call by Sanjeev (Ryan Ali) not adding much to the 14 minute piece. Stewart Emm is the sound master for all of these audio plays and his inclusion of bird sounds, vehicles and hospital noises adds authentic atmosphere to Maguire’s touching play.
Jim Brown brings us Hard Travelling,whose title must be wee nod to the Woody Guthrie song of the (nearly) same name. Neil Cassidy(Charlie West) is driving home to Scotland from France in his beloved old Citröen van called Vanessa (Debbie Cannon). After years on the road together, Neil has developed an anthropomorphisedrelationship with Vanessa with all (well mostly all!) of the characteristics of a human one that is expressed with great humour by Jim Brown. With clever dialogue smattered with French, Brown shows the older vehicle as the older beauty with ‘a great body for her age’ where Vanessa’s reaction of Gallic high dudgeon is comically captured by Debbie Cannon. When Neil arrives at Border Control en route to Edinburgh, he encounters Scot Squad style polis played by Gregor Davidson and Kirsty Punton and things take an unexpected turn in this wee piece of surreal Franco Scottish fun.
The final play for July, The Walkby Elaine Campbell, is a witty and insightful portrait of an elderly lady on her allocated exercise through the New Toun. 82-year-old Dina is brilliantly played by professional actor Elizabeth Millbank, who displays her easy shifts across her linguistic register as anglified Dina encounters various folk across the social spectrum on her pedestrian travels. Dina, who is a like a more outgoing and vital version of Alan Bennet’s Lady of Letters, Irene Ruddick, may be a self-described non-judgmental citizen of the Capital, but verges on the apoplectic as she witnesses Corona time behaviour from her fellow citizens. This is another 10 minutes of enjoyable digital entertainment from Citadel Arts.
The whole series of audio plays, that are available on Citadel’s bespoke website, (citadelartgoesviral.com) are directed by Liz Hare with sound engineering by Stewart Emm. They are sponsored by National Lottery Awards for All Scotland and the Robertson Trust and will continue through August.