Carole – Off to Orkney

Carole – Off to Orkney

Hopefully you will all know that SCDA is a national organisation and that includes my services.  This resulted in my first ever trip to Orkney.  I had met some SCDA members at a Divisional workshop in Aberdeen last year and we had bumped into each other again at the Scottish final and the SCDA anniversary celebrations this year.  Each time we had chatted about the possibility of me coming up to deliver a workshop and the wheels were set in motion.

After settling on a a weekend at the end of September, our plans were for clubs to perform scenes from a play that could be performed as a ‘work in progress’ and I would workshop elements to explore alternative ways of performance and/or how to take the performance forward to the next level.  This was all to be done with the clear understanding that I was not adjudicating the performances just looking for opportunities to provide some new ideas and, where appropriate, some performance technique.

As the weekend grew closer it because apparent that this approach was not going to be suitable for a number of reasons so we reverted to 2 standalone workshops.  I was asked to deliver something similar to the Aberdeen workshop for one workshop and the other was left to me.  I didn’t want to repeat a workshop so I designed something new based on the central theme of ensemble working.  As I knew that the age range could be from 11 to 111 workshop 1 focussed on some general drama techniques leading to a short devised performances in smaller groups which produced some interesting, and sometimes hilarious results.  The play that had originally been under consideration had elements of choral speaking so I decided to design the 2nd workshop around this with some voice and text work followed again by small groups working to on choral speaking – this also linked the 2 workshops as both required a  high level of collaboration as well as technique.

After a relatively smooth journey my host for the trip, Margaret Sutherland, met me at the airport and the game was afoot!  After dropping my bag Margaret took on the role of tourist guide and we headed off to the first of Orkney’s many interesting attractions.  The light rain didn’t deter us, nor the long queue for the very tasty fish and chips cooked fresh in the portakabin by the water.  I don’t want you to think that my workshops visits are all about the downtime so I will just say that Margaret filled up every spare moment with interesting and informative sights and I cannot thank her enough.  If she had any time spare I know that she would make an excellent tour guide but as we all know, people involved in drama are often the mainstay of many voluntary endeavours and I think she is probably busier now than when she worked full time!

The workshops took place on Saturday and Sunday in the Kirkwall Theatre.  Both days there were around 25 participants – not everyone could come for the two days but it was lovely to see that some people who came on the Saturday weren’t sure if they could make the Sunday but most of them juggled things around as they had such a good time on the Saturday.  I can’t take all the credit for that as I have to say that I think one of the main reasons was the openness, generosity and warmth of everyone who turned up.  I have spoken in earlier blogs about the challenges of working across a large age range in terms of trying to meet the needs of everyone and I am honest about that from the start but it was lovely for me to observe everyone supporting and learning from each other.

Only the participants themselves can tell you what they learned individually from the workshops but every day is a school day for me so here is what I took away from the experience

  •  – people are more than the sum of their parts.  What do I mean by this?  Not only it is a privilege for me to see people working so well together to produce really interesting and entertaining work in the workshop, but as a District I gained a real insight into how they communicate and schedule their productions taking into account potential shared audiences.  They also share resources really effectively (thanks for the guided tour of the props and costume stores as well as workshop and rehearsal spaces in Kirkwall)
  • – geography and timing are important considerations.  As some performers can be affiliated to more than one club, a lot of people do have to travel quite a lot.  I am so grateful that people were willing to come quite a long way for the workshops and to give up their weekend to attend.  I also found out that within a farming community it’s not just a question of considering which day to schedule but also trying to avoid the busy times in the farming calendar – I had been pre-warned that the harvest may be affected by the weather which may have a knock on effect on attendance.  Add tourism and local community events into the mix and you start to see that this is quite a balancing act
  • – age is merely a number.  In the feedback session I asked the group to consider the impact of the mixed age group.  I may include more physical tasks within a youth session and perhaps have gone a bit more deeply into some exercises with an adult group – I asked the question ‘if I were to come back would you change this structure?’  The overwhelming answer was no.  This workshop provided an opportunity not only for different clubs to create something and learn together but that they all enjoyed learning from each other across age.  One of the youngest participants mentioned that he couldn’t think of any other time they would be able to do this.  The most likely opportunity would be a panto rehearsal but with the emphasis on getting the performance ready there would never be the time to exchange ideas and experiment in the same way.  I suppose this all comes back to trying to establish what people want to get out of the workshop in the first place and with such a strong emphasis on community I don’t think I was completely surprised by these comments.

Every time I visit a new club or district I hope that this is the beginning of a relationship and we have already begun considering ‘what next’ so I think this won’t be my last visit to Orkney.

See you down the road.









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