Scottish Ballet’s April 2018 tour of Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling was an extraordinary feat. It was the first time Scottish Ballet has presented a full-length, full-scale production in the Highlands and Islands, and came in response to strong audience demand.
The company has toured small-scale productions to regional venues in the past, but always with downsized sets and fewer dancers than the original production. Audience responses to these tours were extremely positive, though it was clear they wanted more.
To make this possible, Scottish Ballet’s Technical Department needed to solve a problem:
How do we tour a full-scale production to venues which physically cannot support them?
They found the answer in sports halls, recreation centres, some clever engineering, and a lot of team spirit!
The Technical Department built a proscenium arch theatre where there was none. This completely transformed regional recreation centres into full-scale theatres, to the delight and amazement of local communities.
This was achieved by designing and constructing a free-standing truss which could support all necessary sets and lighting, including its own wings and ‘backstage’ area. The truss system was so comprehensive that it was also used for performances of Highland Fling at Theatre Royal Glasgow and Festival Theatre Edinburgh, where it sat inside the shell of the existing theatre and was entirely self-sufficient.
In total, the staging came in at a staggering 65 tonnes and was powered by a generator, all of which was then transported across land and sea via three lorries. On top of this, the department created, transported and cared for 62 outfits, 25 wigs, 26 kilts, 20 pairs of fairy wings, 100 pots of body paint, and five litres of fake blood.
Alongside sold-out performances, this tour enabled the Company to engage fully with regional communities. We ran 160 workshops and classes, with over 3,300 people from ages 1 to 101 taking part.
‘So proud that Scottish Ballet has toured to rural and remote locations in Scotland and pulled out all the stops to make each performance a memorable one whilst engaging with communities by including participatory activities (like the life drawing opportunities with SB in Oban earlier today).’ – Audience Feedback via Facebook
The legacy of this endeavour will enable more frequent touring to these regions and a shared use of technology throughout the sector in Scotland.