Media release: Theatre project, Scenes for Survival, set for iPlayer performances


ACCLAIMED Scottish theatre project, Scenes for Survival – created by the National Theatre of Scotland in response to the COVID-19 outbreak – is to go into a new phase with episodes being showcased on BBC iPlayer… starting with a new drama, starring Alan Cumming.

The project, which has been running online and on social media since 27 May, is now to have additional showings on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Scotland channel in August.

Leading the opening up onto BBC iPlayer is a dark new drama from writer, Johnny McKnight, starring Alan Cumming, entitled Out of the Woods, which will go live there on August 3.

The first short film in a three-part series will also go live on BBC online and social channels and via the National Theatre of Scotland, with the following episodes released on August 10 and 17.

Out of the Woods Episode One will be the 34th short film in the Scenes for Survival project to go out and sit on the National Theatre of Scotland and BBC online channels, where so far the digital artworks – made with a wide range of top Scottish actors and emerging talent in their own home environs – have garnered more than 8m views.

Starting from August 3, a selection of the films will also be made available to view on BBC iPlayer, with new films made available there weekly throughout the month and 25 released in total. There will also a be three-part compilation of films from the project broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel starting on Sunday August 16. As well as the compilations, there will also be three longer individual films featuring Mark Bonnar, Elaine C. Smith and Peter Mullan screened on the channel.

Scenes for Survival, created by the National Theatre of Scotland in association with BBC Scotland, Screen Scotland, BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine project, and Scotland’s leading theatre venues and companies, with support from Hopscotch Films, sees a host of leading performers, writers, and directors creating short pieces of digital theatre remotely from their personal spaces of isolation. The first films
were released online on May 27, and the project will showcase 50 plus artworks in total, with three new shorts continuing to be released each week on the NTS and BBC social media channels.

BBC Scotland commissioning executive, Gavin Smith, said: “Scenes for Survival has provided a vital lifeline for the Scottish theatre community and screen industry during the lockdown of the creative sector. It’s provided ongoing storytelling opportunities for both established names and emerging talent and we’re delighted it has been so well received.

“Restrictions are easing and as it happens, through BBC Scotland and BBC iPlayer, we are opening up access to Scenes for Survival to the Scottish audience with more ways to view.”

Out of the Woods – one of the first Scenes for Survival films to be also showcased on BBC iPlayer – is a darkly comic tale of a father (Alan Cumming) keeping in touch with his mum and young daughter as he struggles to find his way through the woods, as the afternoon dusk descends into darkness. He is on his way to pick up his young daughter from the remote house she lives in with her ‘other dad’, his estranged former partner. But it is a secret and the little girl isn’t to tell her other dad he is coming…

The film was shot by Alan Cumming in the woods near his home in the Catskills mountain range, in New York State. Written by Johnny McKnight, and directed by Andrew Panton, it has been produced in
association with Dundee Rep Theatre.

Said Alan Cumming: “It seems weirdly inappropriate to say, but making Out of the Woods was a really fun experience. Maybe it was the fact that I shot it myself and didn’t have to deal with any crew or other actors (aside from my husband who did some really great feet acting)? Maybe it was continuing my collaborations with National Theatre of Scotland and Andrew Panton? Maybe it was working for the first
time with the legend that is Johnny McKnight? Maybe it was all of the above but great things come from adversity and I had a great time making this piece.”

The three stand-alone drama films to be on the BBC Scotland channel are:

Larchview, written by Rob Drummond and featuring Mark Bonnar as a fictional senior scientific adviser coming to terms with his own major breach of the lockdown rules when he secretly visited a care home.

Fatbaws, written by Douglas Maxwell, and starring Peter Mullan in a surreal and comic drama about a man in conflict with his garden birds after he changes the food in their bird-feeder

And First Things, penned by Val McDermid and starring Elaine C Smith as a big-hearted DJ on Radio Scotia trying to keep everyone’s spirits up during lockdown.

Jackie Wylie, artistic director of National Theatre of Scotland, said: “The success of Scenes for Survival so far has been a testament to the extraordinary talent of Scottish theatre-makers. Their resilience and creativity in being able to create amazing theatre from their spaces of isolation over these last few months is incredible and inspiring. Responsiveness is one of the key strengths of theatre as
an art form, and these stories have helped us understand the times we are living through and how to collectively imagine what the future might be.

“It has been fantastic to work in new ways and seek strength in creative collaboration through the cross sector collaboration between theatre organisations and broadcasters, and we are delighted that a selection of the films will be able to reach new audiences through this broadcast partnership with the BBC. We hope that these Scenes for Survival continue to bring some joy, shared community, and solace
to audiences watching across Scotland and beyond.”

The selection of films on iPlayer and in the compilations on BBC Scotland will feature top names such as Brian Cox in a new take on Rebus, from Ian Rankin, as the retired detective experiences the lockdown blues, Julie Wilson Nimmo in The Banshee, which has been penned by Greg Hemphill, Jonathan Watson in A Mug’s Game – an extract from Frances Poet’s celebrated play Fibres – and Alone performed and written by Janey Godley.

New talent featured includes Patrick Martins and Emma King in Joseph Knight, an extract from May Sumbwanyambe’s forthcoming play, Enough of Him, which has been inspired by the true story of an enslaved African brought to Scotland, and Kristi MacDonald as a hospital patient in The Domestic, written by NHS nurse, Uma Nada Rajah.

There will also be screenings of films from Scenes for Survival in due course on BBC Four and BBC ALBA.

Read more, here.


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