Wildfire Theatre has landed and they’re on a mission.
Founded by experienced theatre makers Pauline Lockhart, Molly Innes, Wendy Seager and Natalie Arle Toyne, the aim is to bring women from disadvantaged backgrounds into the theatre. Friday evening at the Traverse marked their very first performance and Pauline Lockhart took the floor to explain more.
Lockhart begins with the unfortunate fact that theatre has always been a bit elitist and is becoming more so. She cites the statistic that currently only 16% of actors are from working class backgrounds and states that Wildfire Theatre intends to right this wrong. They wish to blaze a path through a metaphorical theatrical forest, so the establishment standing at one end can meet the community standing at the other.
But the goal is not only to encourage more working class folk into the theatre as part of an audience, but also to get them writing, directing and performing. The aim is to give voice to those we rarely hear, to let the people speak for themselves and to tell stories that will resonate with a different, until now marginalised, demographic.
Following in the footsteps of pioneering companies like Stellar Quines (set up in 1993 to promote and support the work of women in Scottish theatre), Wildfire Theatre also wish to right another wrong: to address the dominance of male-produced and male-focused theatre by bringing female-created work to the stage. With this in mind they have been running workshops with women of all ages, young and old, in a variety of local communities all over Edinburgh, encouraging them to write and share the stories they want to tell.
For their first performance, Project #1, they present the writing of Claire McCracken and Frances McCann as performed readings. Flickering Seasons, an autobiographical piece by Frances McCann, is not only a vivid and moving story, but also a fascinating slice of social history, touching on her time in a poor school, Pakistan and a Pilton women’s homeless hostel.
Spliced between four extracts from McCann’s story are three very different mini-plays and one monologue by Claire McCracken. These range from a satirical look at millennials; an exploration of emotional responses to the bin lorry crash in Glasgow in 2014; a dark yet humorous dip into the relationship between a consummate criminal and her new, naïve case worker and finally a hilarious and utterly inspired piece about a Kate Bush fanatic.
The writing is as fresh and exciting as the company’s ambitions and the four founders/performers have the talent, experience and commitment to see it through. If you would like to find out more, get involved, or just subscribe to Wildfire Theatre events, go to their website at wildfiretheatre.co.uk for all the information you’ll need to support these winds of change.