What Is Mull Theatre?
20 Mar 2018
We’ve been around a long time! Mull Theatre has been creating top quality professional touring theatre productions for over 50 years. Established in 1966 and run in what was a former cow byre (and is now very smart holiday accommodation) Mull Little Theatre was famous for being the smallest professional theatre in the world. But it takes more than a gimmick to keep producing new theatre for over half a century.
Over the years we’ve been one of Scotland’s busiest theatre companies, and we’re now known for the quality of our work as well as our far-reaching touring. We try to produce accessible, challenging theatre, which is engaging, dynamic, inspiring, involving and fun.
Popular with audiences and promoters, our shows have been seen in almost every city, town, village and island in Scotland from the largest theatre to the smallest village hall, and we’ve delivered the same high-quality performances in every venue, regardless of size or location. We’ve taken 50 major touring projects to more than 300 venues around Scotland and given nearly 2,000 performances to well over a quarter of a million people.
We’re proud of our far-reaching touring, our partnership working, our support for artists and companies and for the quality and consistency of our work. We commission new plays from established and emerging theatre makers and produce and tour a broad range of contemporary and classic theatre for all ages.
Each year our productions aim to tour in the Highlands and Islands for several weeks with a particular focus on Argyll and Bute. Our work is seen in almost every community in Scotland from the largest theatre to the smallest village hall.
We provide mentoring and leadership, practical and financial support and facilities to organisations and artists to develop collaborative projects, to commission and create new work, to combine strengths and to tour more widely. We’ve worked in co-production with many of the top names in Scottish theatre, creating work together or supporting others to create and deliver better work. These include: Right Lines, the National Theatre of Scotland, Wildbird, Andy Cannon, Sell-a-Door, Poorboy, Eden Court and Ed Littlewood, Helen Milne Productions, RT Productions, Toto Tales, Magnetic North, Pachamama Productions, Rapture, Stasi Schaeffer, Theatre Gu Leor, Clown Conspiracy. Other collaborations include: Oran Mor – a Play, a Pie and a Pint, Imaginate, Cultural Olympiad, Perth Theatre, Royal Lyceum, Byre Theatre, Ambassador Theatre Group, The Tramway and the Scottish Touring Theatres Consortium.
Many of our productions have drawn 4 and 5 star reviews in the national press, including Macbeth, Kidnapped, Copenhagen, The Lonesome West, Katie Morag, Whisky Galore, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Weir, Opium Eater, Laurel and Hardy, Singing Far into the Night, Stones in His Pockets, Movietime.
Cyprus by Peter Arnott enjoyed a four-week run at the Trafalgar Studios in London’s West End. Whisky Galore was part of Homecoming 2014 and had two sell-out tours. Rough Island by Nicola McCartney toured with Doras Dùinte, a new Gaelic play by Catriona Lexy Campbell (both co-productions with Oran Mor and Theatre Gu Leor), The Fisherman and his Wife by Lisa Grindall toured to 30 schools in Argyll, The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey had two acclaimed touring productions, Starbird by Mara Menzies (coproduction with Toto Tales) toured widely and appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, My Name is Rachel Corrie (co-production with RT Productions) toured amidst political controversy to great acclaim, The Man Who Had All The Luck by Arthur Miller, (coproduction with Sell-a-Door Theatre) toured throughout Scotland and England, Scota-Land was a co-production with Andy Cannon, Imaginate Children’s Theatre Festival and the Cultural Olympiad, had three tours and played in almost every part of the country, The Greatest Little Republic by Chris Lee was a major production of a challenging new play by a Highland-based writer. Grit (a co-production with Pachamama) was part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme and appeared at the Tramway and at Mull Theatre, both to great acclaim.
Mull Theatre has played an important role in regional and national small-scale touring and we share our skills and experience with emerging companies and artists and with those new to the Highlands and to rural touring. We also provide support and a performance base for many artists and companies from around the world.
We work with a wide range of professional artists in every branch of theatre. We have a strong record in supporting new writing and playwrights over many years.
We have commissioned scripts from, among others: Peter Arnott, Nicola McCartney, Catriona Lexy Campbell, Jon Pope, Andy Cannon, David Cosgrove, Lisa Grindall, Robert Paterson, Hamish MacDonald, Chris Lee, Mara Menzies, Robert Dawson Scott, Norman Malcolm MacDonald, Christopher Webber.
We also support and promote a high-quality programme of visiting artists and companies performing on Mull and Iona (theatre, children’s theatre, dance, comedy, literature).
THE DIFFICULT YEARS
In 2012 Mull Theatre merged with An Tobar to form Comar, a new organisation aimed at pooling the resources of its predecessor companies and becoming a major, sustainable organisation working across several art forms. Like many mergers, the process wasn’t without its difficulties. In 2015 matters came to a head with some very well-publicised upheavals, a financial crisis, a press campaign, an online petition and several public meetings. This culminated in the departure of the entire board of directors and much of the existing staff and senior management. From that low point there has been a steady climb back to where we are now, with a small but effective staff and a new board, a new three-year funding agreement with Creative Scotland and bright hopes for the future.
The financial problems the new company faced resulted in a lot of activities being cut back. Touring theatre is by far the most expensive thing we do so that’s the area that’s suffered most. We’ve continued to produce and to tour on a small scale, to develop new writing projects, to commission and to work in partnership with others. What we’ve not been doing much of in the last few years is taking our own shows out on the road around Scotland like we have in the past. Mull Theatre tours have been a rarity, and that’s a huge regret for us. Happily, this is about to change. We’re building ourselves back up and will soon be back out on the road, producing and touring at full steam!
We’re in rehearsals now for a new play by Aberdeen writer George Milne. “He’s Done Nothing Wrong” will appear on Mull and Iona this summer. Straight after that we’re supporting Helen Milne’s new production, “Islander”, a musical for all the family, rehearsing and opening at the theatre before a tour of Scotland. Then it’s right on to our revival of last year’s successful summer production, “Two” by Jim Cartwright, which will tour in September and early October. Just into the new year we go into rehearsals for “The Bite-Size Double-Bill”, a mixed evening of new writing including a full production of Robert Dawson Scott’s new play for us, “The Electrifying Mister Johnston”. That will tour in February and March. And right after that we rehearse and then tour another new commission, award-winning playwright Peter Arnott’s new play, “Unspotted Snow”.
Details of all these shows will soon be available online. Here’s some background info on the first of them…
HE’S DONE NOTHING WRONG
Mull Theatre has always had a keen sense of family, being part of a small company working together and “getting the show on”. We have a core design and production team many of whom are based on the island and, over the years, a large number of actors and stage managers (and indeed writers) have come back to work with us again and again. This builds great relationships with our audiences who get to know them and enjoy their work. Like every family, we continue to grow, as new faces join while others go off to find adventure for a while… they’ll be back! This has meant that we’ve worked with many dozens of the very best theatre professionals in Scotland, and beyond, and it’s always a pleasure to add new faces to the family album.
This year, for the new Mull Theatre production HE’S DONE NOTHING WRONG by George Milne, we’re delighted to welcome two new actors to the company as well as giving one old stager another run round the track!
New to the company and a relatively new resident of the island, Mandy Eaglen has lived near Tobermory since last year but has been a long-term visitor to Mull. Mandy’s varied and successful career encompasses business, education and the arts, with several years teaching and producing theatre at universities in the United States. We’re delighted she’s settled here and is able to join our company for this new production over the summer months.
The other new member of our company is Alec Westwood. Alec, from Aberdeen, is a versatile and dynamic actor with many years’ experience in Scottish theatre. Alec was part of the same Scottish Youth Theatre company as Mull Theatre director Alasdair McCrone and subsequently they went on to study drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama at more or less the same time. They both retain their youthful outlook and appearance from those days, despite it being slightly more than ten years ago…
HE’S DONE NOTHING WRONG is being designed and built by Alan Melvin. Alan has been working with us for almost 20 years and is a resident of Tobermory. Apart from many designs and constructions for Mull Theatre, Mull Youth Theatre and Tidal Dance, Alan has created wonderful sets for theatre companies throughout Scotland. He’s also a regular stallholder at the Tobermory Producers Market where his unique work is for sale (also available at An Tobar and at all good outlets!)
Our stage management and production team for the summer comprises Hilly (Company Stage Manager - don’t call him Kevin), Alan Cesarano (Technical Stage Manager) and Martin Low (Sound) who, between them, have amassed about 35 years working for Mull Theatre. It’s great to have some of the old team back for the summer months, especially ones who are so good at what they do. We regularly get feedback from all the venues we go to on tour letting us know what a smooth, unfussy, professional job our team have done. This makes everyone’s job much easier and helps venues, promoters, audiences and performers to get the very best out of the Mull Theatre touring experience.
HE’S DONE NOTHING WRONG can be seen for a limited run at Mull Theatre from the end of July as well as in Bunessan (as part of the Ross of Mull Gala) on Iona and, for the first time in many years, at Craignure and in Dervaig… not, sadly, at the little theatre but in the village hall.