Carole – Everyday gestures in Edinburgh

Carole – Everyday gestures in Edinburgh

First workshop for 2018 saw me heading over to Edinburgh to Edinburgh People’s Theatre.  The scenery on the train journey was beautiful with snow covering the hills.

This was my second invitation to be a part of the club workshop programme.  They run workshops once a month on a Saturday morning with a variety of different facilitators.  This results in people being very open-minded to new ideas and ways of working so I was very happy when they opted for my workshop ‘Capturing the everyday’.  Everyday gestures turned into flexible, contemporary choreography.

After a couple of warm-up activities including a game of physical chinese whispers we were in the right frame of mind to create some choreography.  We understood by this point that we needed a high focus on clarity when using gestures and movement.  Using the prologue to Romeo and Juliet we shaped the moves and found the points of interaction with the text.  Had we gone on for another hour I think we would have continued to develop what had started out as a very simple series of movements.  Playing with pace, volume of movement, movements of stillness and moments of precision.  I was able to film the short piece which the group watched and enabled us collectively to do a bit of tweaking and re-run it.

There was a lovely atmosphere of generosity and openness in the room.  As well as members of the club who were able to attend the workshop free of charge, it was also opened up to others clubs in the district and it was very nice to see them.  I really appreciated them coming out on a cold and icy morning to attend the workshop.  For a small charge they could get the benefit of the workshop and have a chance to chat to each other over coffee – great example of community!

I hope that the club continue to invite me to be a part of their workshop programme and want to say thanks very much for having me back again.  I look forward to the next time, until then

See you down the road



Carole – Scenes in South West Ross

Carole – Scenes in South West Ross

1 bus and 2 trains deliver me to Strathcarron train station where Pam is waiting to pick me up.  It was the first weekend in December and a little wild and windy as I was whisked to my temporary home with Rita and I had time for a quick rest before heading out for dinner.  It was really nice having a chance to catch up with Pam and Rita to find out what had been going on recently and what was on the horizon for the District.

Sunday arrived and with it a great bunch of people with many travelling across from Plockton.  There were some familiar faces and some new people with a good mix of experience.

The focus in the morning session was on the voice, as well as the physicality and technical things to consider we explored the importance of knowing why a character is speaking, what effect they want their words to have?  There were many lightbulb moments when discussing light and shade and the risks of coming in to hard or too big with the voice leaving the actor with nowhere to go through the scene.  Anger can be expressed in a quiet slow voice as well as by shouting and it was great to see people start to think about this and experiment with different tactics.

After a sociable sandwich lunch we continued on the theme of focus and intention through short scenes with the actors having to focus on a few specific things.  This links into some of the feedback I see from Adjudicators where they highlight acting as being ‘too general’.  Everyone did really well they enjoyed watching each other and giving feedback which moved beyond the very general comment of ‘it was good’.

Something that happens a lot in workshops is that people constantly surprise themselves and each other by doing things that they have never done before.  I often hear comments like ‘I didn’t know she/he could do that’ – they probably didn’t know either.  This is a really positive outcome as it broadens out the material that clubs can consider selecting for their performances when they realise what individuals are capable of.

People pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone and all helped to establish a supportive and creative environment.  I always enjoy my visits up to South West Ross – it’s well worth the journey and the warmth of welcome I receive far outweighs the sometimes harsh weather outside.

See you down the road.



Carole – Kindness in Kirkintilloch

Carole – Kindness in Kirkintilloch

I was very excited to be invited to come and work with the young people at Kirkintilloch Players. I was also really happy that this opportunity directly came from a taster workshop I delivered to members of the Western Division Committee – other Divisions might want to consider the same thing?

It was quite cold as I made my way to the workshop venue and I knew that a lot of the participants had been involved in various activities in the morning so one of my first challenges was to think about how to keep the energy levels up.  I didn’t need to worry – the group were warm and receptive so I knew from the off that we would have a good time.  After some very energetic games we decamped into the larger hall  in the venue to give us some space to spread out.

My brief had been to look at voice particularly clarity and volume.  I am often asked for this and alongside some tongue twisters and vocal warm-ups we looked at the importance of using the whole body to communicate and the challenges of that in a time when culturally visual images are so dominant.  The group were attentive and very quick to convert the learning into group images and short scenes.

The last section was a gamble as we worked with monologues and I was a little concerned that people might be feeling a bit tired at this point.  Once I had ascertained that almost everyone wanted the opportunity to perform their monologues and get some feedback I knew that time would be tight as the group was quick big, so everyone got their heads down and the result was a really high level of focus.  Everyone worked through a structured process included working with a partner to help them develop the piece.

I have nothing but praise for every single member of the group not only at where they managed to get to with their performances but also the kindness and support they offered each other  – it’s one of the many things I love about my job that I am able to witness this true demonstration of community time and time again.

What I learned ….  Although the games and small group work was really enthusiastically performed – the feedback at the end was that everyone who had acted their monologue really enjoyed getting some individual feedback and the chance to put changes into practice straight away.  This was also the case in my earlier trip to Orkney and I have been reflecting on the challenge of balancing the whole group activities with the individual moments of learning.  I wonder if I should offer more in the way of ‘directing’ actors in small scenes, something which I tend not to do too much as I understand that clubs may have one workshop a year so I want everyone to get the most out of it.  Thinking cap on, suggestions on a postcard (showing my age there, an email will do)!

Here are some images – it was hard to choose as there were so many good shots but hopefully this gives a flavour of the workshop.



Carole – No thorny issues for Thornhill Players

Carole – No thorny issues for Thornhill Players

It felt like ages for this day to come at the end of October because it had been in the diary for so long – full marks to Thornhill for forward planning!!

With not one, but two plays in rehearsal the workshop plan was focussed on some specific issues arising within one of the plays for one half of the day and in the 2nd half the club were interested in exploring how to ‘do nothing’ on stage.

After some general drama stuff, a technical term, we got into the business of the scene.  The question concerned how to sustain a struggle between 2 characters while the scene continues around it.  This led to a discussion about the difference between being naturalistic or theatrical.  We agreed that in the context of this scene we needed to go for theatricality but even with theatricality there needs to be enough realism for the audience to buy-in to the fact that the character was actually being restrained whilst allowing the character to interact with the scene in a comedic way.  So what did we learn?

  • We needed to allow the text to drive the scene so that the struggle made sense.  There were necessary moments of stillness to allow the character to hear and respond to the actions of the other characters
  • We needed to absolutely choreograph the start and end point of the physical struggle for it to work
  • Many hands make light work – after watching 3 different versions created in small groups we all had a lightbulb moment that getting a group together to explore some of these sticky moments at the beginning of rehearsals is not only great fun but takes the pressure off the director to come up with all of the answers (something I also try to steer directors away from).


I think that there were elements in each version that could be brought together and I hope that the cast and director found it useful.

After a shared lunch we started to think about whether it is possible to ever do nothing – even if we are just quietly sitting somewhere usually our minds are still working really hard – sometimes random thoughts sometimes trying to figure out what to do next.  Does it make any difference to our outer stillness if our inner life is so active.

What did we discover?  You’ll have to book the workshop yourself to find out.

See you down the road!




Carole -Onwards & Upwards to Orkney

Carole – Onwards & Upwards to Orkney

Travel arrangements made – check!

Information from the District about what they want me to focus on – check!

Bag containing a few items of clothes but lots of workshop materials, packed – check!

So I headed off to Orkney for a return visit on Friday 29 September and I was just as excited as I was this time last year.  Workshop number 1 focussed on Stagecraft.  We worked on the orientation of the stage and status of objects and people before setting up a scene and directing it.  A small group of about 8 people attended and we got through a lot in a half day workshop.  We kept the elements of devising to allow us to create scenes quickly without having scripts in hand.  I will reflect on this approach a bit more as I wonder if it did save us time and maybe people would have preferred to work on an existing scene.  Any comments would be gratefully received!

I always feel that we could do with more time when it comes to the end and I am sure we could have easily continued with the work we were doing well into the afternoon but there was a lighting workshop scheduled for the afternoon led by the technical team in the Kirkwall Theatre so we had to stop.

Day 2 and workshop number 2 – this time we looked at voice and character.  We limbered up our vocal chords and worked on opening up the space inside the mouth and throat.  Everyone then worked on a monologue, I had to make sure there was enough time at the end to see the ones from everyone who wanted to share which was most people. We had to time this with precision to make sure that everyone got their spot and I think we all really enjoyed seeing the same monologue done by more than one person as we could discuss the different approaches and accept the fact that there isn’t just one way to present something.   It was a really big group and a wide span of ages but I hope that there was something for everyone.  We could only get as far as we did by the focus and handwork of everyone in the room so well done to you all!

I love working with the folk in Orkney District – I am always made to feel so welcome and people are very openminded to consider new things – they also collaborate so well across ages and levels of experience.  Considering it was the first weekend of panto rehearsals and there was a Murder Mystery going up the week after my visit, I was very impressed that so many people still managed to come along to the workshop.

I hope that there will be a 3rd visit and leave it to the clubs to make that decision, in the meantime…
See you down the road



Carole – Puss in Boots in Stonehaven

Carole – Puss in Boots in Stonehaven

It’s always a pleasure taking the train up the East Coast with so many great places to stop off.  My destination was Stonehaven where I was going to get to work with Ury Players.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to Stonehaven although I have worked with members of the club at Aberdeen District events.

Having been sent the script in advance I was able to prepare a bespoke workshop looking at voice projection and clarity.  I’m not a great lover of panto but reading it had me laughing out loud and made it much easier for me to think about what might be useful for cast.  After some general warm-ups we worked with the opening speech which introduces the whole play.

I believe that once you have done the physical work to free up the voice the focus needs to go onto the meaning and being clear what response you want from the audience.  What are the important words?  Is there enough variety in the tone to make it listenable?  Is there enough space through successfully using pauses to allow the audience to catch up?

Working in small groups everyone came up with so many creative and interesting approaches and worked so hard in a short space of time that I didn’t even take any photos which is a real shame as there were countless moments that would have made great photos.

With a mix of workshop veterans and people who had never been to a workshop it was great to see everyone working together and helping each other to try new things.

Good luck to everyone involved in the panto and see you down the road!



Carole – Edinburgh Makars making merry

Edinburgh Makars making merry

Challenge number 1 – finding the venue.  With the help of Google maps I negotiated the roadworks and headed down in the direction of Leith (I was a pedestrian so it wasn’t too bad).  When my phone announced “You have arrived at your destination” I knew I had to head down a small lane with cobblestones. Luckily Anthea was looking out for me, she took me through the blue door and up into 2 rooms – a kitchen with some enticing biscuits and cups that we would put to good use later on and a large rehearsal room.  Furniture from various decades was placed around the edges of the room, photographs from recent productions were proudly displayed on the wall.  It was a welcoming space with plenty of room for a workshop.

Edinburgh Makars have decided to have a club night on Mondays which they hope to theme in different ways.  In addition to workshops they will hold play reading evenings and other similar activities.  I really like this idea, often groups say to me that one of the things they want to do more of is to create a club environment bearing in mind not everyone is directly involved in each production.  Many of the challenges the Makars face are common amongst groups I visit – having sufficient people who want to be involved in front of house, behind the scenes and as office bearers.  In addition it is increasingly difficult to find affordable venues to perform in – audiences like the familiarity of a regular venue if possible.  I had never considered this before – it is easy to assume that a city like Edinburgh is filled with suitable venues.

The group wanted to focus on physicality.  This area is relatively new to me in terms of delivering workshops and I find I am continually learning each time I deliver it.  The group fully engaged with every exercise we did – I checked in with them as we went through the evening as I had left allowed lots of space for feedback and discussion as we went through the evening and I was worried that the pace wasn’t quick enough.  It seemed that the group appreciated the chance to mull things over and to think about how to use some of the things we experimented with not just how the techniques worked.  Everyone felt that it had the potential to create a further dimension to characters and the more I work in this area the more convinced I am of the benefits.

Taking the spoken text out of the equation is very liberating rather than restricting and the group could pinpoint times when they think this approach would have helped them in previous productions.  We talked about the fact that this could be difficult when time is short and it is important to be convinced that investing time into something new requires not only a degree of bravery but a belief that the benefits will make it worthwhile.

The time flew by and it was soon time for me to get the train back to Glasgow. I don’t think it will be too long before I am heading back to the Edinburgh Makars as we started talking about “what next” which is always a good sign.

Thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome.  See you down the road.



Carole – Fun in Fintry!

Fun in Fintry!

Sunday 10 September – raining and a bit cold I headed up into the hills to Fintry – hoping that people would still come out despite the horrible weather.  The final number of participants totalled 9  all willing and open to trying anything,

I gave the group the choice about whether they wanted to focus on text or movement – the resounding answer was ‘can we have it all?’.  We finally agreed on on keeping the first half of the workshop open withs games, some warm-ups a bit of voice work and we started thinking about movement.  After a brief comfort break this was where I took my biggest gamble and challenged the group to represent a whole story just with our bodies (we used Snow White as our inspiration because that will be the panto for Fintry this year – see if you can identify the relevant moments from the pictures below).

I cannot say how rewarding it is to work with a group of adults who are willing to throw off their inhibitions and tap into the inner child that allows you to just ‘go for it’.  The quality of the work and the discussion was fantastic with everyone seeing the benefits of attempting to tell a whole story through pictures.  With people being prepared to be characters and objects there was plenty of hysteria (the sofa with the sagging seats and the contemporary painting will stick in my memory for a long time)

We thought it would be good to perhaps have a day at the beginning of rehearsals when you could bring the whole cast in and  get them to create a picture for every scene.  Stage 2 is where you focus on the transitions between them, perhaps give them captions along the way. A great opportunity to build a team and also to get ideas from the whole cast.

There were the usual regrets that more people hadn’t come to the workshop but there is a saying in drama that you always have the right people in the room because we are the ones who turned up!

We created our own bit of sunshine with lots of laughter and food for thought.

Until next time Fintry, see you down the road.



Carole – Friends at the Festival

Friends at the Festival

9 August 2017 – I make my way to Edinburgh using public transport – small case on wheels in one hand containing SCDA related materials and stationary.  Slung over one shoulder an SCDA banner I walked all the way to Venue 2 by George Square for my workshop ‘Why do we need Amateur Theatre?’

In common with a lot of activities at the Fringe I wasn’t expecting a large group but was very heartened when I arrived to find that 10 people reserved tickets.  Unfortunately the weather was fantastic and I think that some people changed their minds as they would rather by outside or the timing didn’t fit into their programme of performances.  This is no complaint however as the small group of 4 (5 including me) created a lot of energetic discussion and questions.

In addition to one of our very active member and supporter, Martin Butler, we had a representative from Sardines the amateur theatre magazine, and 2 of my friends who I have know for over 20 years.  One of them is an individual member of SCDA since she moved back to Scotland and the other lives in the south of England but was just up for the festival – lovely reunion for me.  Although I created a structure for the day I was happy to be flexible and let the group dictate the way in which we got to some of the issues that we were all interested in.   Here are some brief notes of the discussion


We talked about the challenges of being brave and taking risks both in terms of choices of plays and staging.  Factors influencing these choices were demographic of the club and audience expectations

This led on to talking about age and gender blindness when casting.  One person talked about a production of Romeo & Juliet with 2 older actors taking on that role and the disapproval of the families coming from the grown-up children.  There is also a trend for gender blind casting which may help when there is such a body of work that is produced for all male or predominantly male casts.

We talked about production reviews and Chris from Sardines filled us in on the fact that they review by invitation and have reviewers all over the UK.  We had a chat about expectations and I updated the group on my conversation with Thom Dibdin resulting in a couple of resources recently making their way onto our website

There was a general feeling that there is a gap in knowledge for office bearers and it may be useful to consider offering this to clubs,  All agreed that getting people in general onto Committees can be challenging but the role of Treasurer seems to be the role that is most difficult to fill

Something we are aware of is the challenge of finding suitable plays and agreed that the ‘community’ could help more by sharing information about the plays they have done

Everyone talked about the lack of directing skills that can result in people not feeling valued.  One of the participants said that he is now not willing to take part in a production where the cast are not involved in the creative process.

We touched on the perception of amateur theatre being white middle class and how that is reflected in the professional sector.  We also acknowledged that this can be geographic.  If you live in an area that isn’t particularly diverse your group is likely to reflect that.  We shouldn’t be complacent however but this is a much bigger issue than we were able to address in any depth within this forum.

We did talk about how clubs are run being a potential barrier to members.  This includes time and location for meetings and rehearsals and the feeling that sometimes it’s always the same people who get the parts’  This took us back to point number 1 where we talked about making braver choices where possible.

Perception is a problem however and we acknowledged that some amateur groups at the Fringe do not declare themselves as amateurs as they believe it will put people off.  We agreed that the term ‘Community rather than ‘Sector’ felt more appropriate.  We talked about the attempt to reclaim the word ‘amateur’ as a positive umbrella but there is still some way to go in this area

We talked about the issue of VAT on theatre hire for charities and wondered if there was anyway this could be claimed back.  (SCDA are looking into this)

There is a trend, particularly in London, for people to pay a membership fee and then have to pay a performance fee.  We were uncertain about whether this was a good idea.  It can be a barrier particularly if you don’t have much money but on the other hand if everyone pays the same fee to be a member of a club lots of people are non-performing members. We think this is more common in musical theatre groups.   Anyone reading this have a view??

We wondered if it was helpful to differentiate between youth groups who are led by paid professionals and amateur theatre led youth groups and decided that whilst we wouldn’t want to be rigid there is a bit difference, not necessarily in quality but in the fact that a lot of youth theatre is devised whereas amateur groups tend to use scripts more often than not.

  1. It was a interesting and inspiring event that I think we all enjoyed.  Who wouldn’t want to get together to talk about something they are passionate about with like-minded individuals.  The debates were really good with lots of different opinions but everyone respecting those differences.
  2. One very important thing that came out of this discussion is that the people living in England would love to have an SCDA equivalent and they were very jealous of the resources and the willingness for SCDA to open up discussions and continuously try to find ways to develop.  They were very impressed with the new workshop brochure and amazed that people can have a local workshop for a very small fee.

Please get in touch if you have any thoughts about the subjects discussed on anything else that you see as a pressing issue for your club or for the amateur theatre Community in general.

See you down the road.


Carole – Dynamic Dunoon

Dynamic Dunoon

I had met Elaine Graham on a couple of different occasions the most recent being at the Scottish final in Pitlochry where she told me about the newly formed Burgh Hall Players in Dunoon.  As the Chairperson she was keen that they have a general drama workshop as soon as possible.  Apart from giving people some skills to take into early productions, it would be an opportunity to attract some newbies and see who we could get through the door.

After some careful diary management we got a date in the diary and my adventure began with a short train ride and a slightly bumpy ferry crossing.  It was certainly windy and a bit wet when I arrived but I was experiencing my usual excitement at visiting a new club with all the uncertainties of whether anyone would come to the workshop and if they did would they be happy to go along with the activities I had planned.  I had opted to go over on the Friday evening even though the workshop was all day on the Saturday as I didn’t want to take the chance that the weather would scupper my journey.  As Elaine was in the midst of home renovations I was made very comfortable at the home of Julie Forrester for the night and after an evening of talking all things theatre I spent a very comfortable night in Julie’s spare room.  Thanks so much of your hospitality Julie.

Saturday morning arrived and we made our way to the hall – as people started to arrive we realised that we would have a nice size group – eventually there were 17 people which I think exceeded all of our expectations.

This workshop was slightly different as the introduction games are usually very much for me to try to get to know people quickly and get a feel for what people seem to like or not like  In this case most people didn’t know each other well, if at all, so we were all in the same boat.  As things relaxed one challenge that we did discover was that the echoey nature of the room made it a little difficult for some people to hear.  We were able to experiment with this in the vocal exercises with lots of discussion about how to deal with the echo – soon realising that just being louder wasn’t always helpful.

It was a fun and exhausting day and the feedback session at the end was an opportunity to discover that some people who had never attended a drama workshop before had really enjoyed the experience.  A couple of people were a bit overawed at the talent in the room and were unsure whether they would feel able to get onto the stage but hopefully Elaine and myself were able to reassure them.  Community drama for both of us as Directors is very much about the journey we all go on together and we are both interested in working with people who want to have a go and are both enthusiastic and willing to try new things rather than the always casting the most experienced people.

I thought it was also worth mentioning a compliment I received (there is a reason behind this rather than my own ego).  One person mentioned that he usually hates anything to do with games or warm-ups as it can often make him feel silly or vulnerable but the reason he enjoyed them in my workshop is that I was able to contextualise them and explain what each one had to do with performance.  I believe that this is very important as I realise that people don’t always have the time or inclination for these kinds of activities but a few that are well chosen can get you somewhere quite quickly as well as set the atmosphere that you want in the rehearsal room.

As usual here’s some photos for you to get a feel for what we did and my thanks to everyone who made me so welcome and threw themselves into everything we did.

Until next time good luck to Dunoon who have already planned an evening of one-Acts in the Autumn.

See you down the road.