With deadlines still a fair distance away, February is the perfect time to head to The Byre and escape into a world of excitement, drama, intrigue and entertainment. This month The Byre is showcasing fantastic productions from Mermaids, SAMS and Eden Court. So whether you’re in search of electric, witty intellectual drama, want to witness a play investigating human identity and survival, or if you’re just looking for an enormous pick-me-up in the form of a hilarious, smash hit musical, then this is the time to book your tickets.
THE HISTORY BOYS
In the spirit of getting back into the dynamic, dramatic and extraordinary world of education, Mermaids return to The Byre this February with nothing less than the nation’s favourite play: Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. First premiering at the Royal National Theatre back in 2004, the show was an instant phenomenon. With sell-out audiences from the start, the success of The History Boys led to frequent extended runs and both national and international tours, as well as countless awards and critical acclaim following triumphs both on Broadway and the West End. Mermaids director Harrison Roberts takes on this modern drama with the determination to bring Bennett’s vivacious, distinctive characters to life, while providing ‘humour, scandal and a candid insight into the reality of the British education system.’
Set in 1980s Britain, The History Boys is a contemporary classic which sees a set of capable and ambitious sixth-form students prepare for their Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams, guided by three teachers with starkly opposing teaching styles – from the eccentric and passionate to the cold and ruthless.
Filled with dry, witty, crass, and intelligent humour, the play is playful and outrageous, but Bennett’s skilful comedy also serves as an unapologetic critique of the British education system. Social issues regarding class, prejudice, opportunity, gender and sexuality are not detached concepts for the pupils of Cutlers’ Grammar School, but inseparable from the complicated personal lives of the boys themselves. Through his characters, their experiences and their dialogue, Bennett extricates wisdom and relevance from the school subjects that the education system has notoriously flattened. In doing so he reinforces the true value of education, and brings that which is inherent both to humanity and learning closer together. It is most definitely a show worth seeing.
Hannah Ritchie, who plays Mrs Lintott, said, ‘It’s wonderful being in a cast filled with old friends and new – I can’t wait to unveil our finished play in February. It’s a play that speaks to everyone – we’ve all had that teacher that has inspired us in one way or another, it’s a universal experience.’
The History Boys will be performed at the Byre Theatre on the 16th-17th February 2018.
Eden Court presents the world premiere of The Return, a gripping play by Scottish playwright and rising star Ellie Stewart.
Set in France in 1560, The Return begins with Bertrande, a woman raising her son alone, seven years after the disappearance of her husband. Isolated in the foothills of the Pyrenees and tending to her livestock, the simplicity of Bertrande’s life is suddenly annihilated with the arrival of the Arnaud. Despite him being a complete stranger, the pair decides to present Arnaud to the world as Bertrande’s long-lost husband, miraculously returned. But is it possible that Arnaud actually is her husband?
The play is inspired by the true story of Martin Guerre, a man at the center of a famous French C16th case of imposture. The production focuses on the mystery of identity and on survival instinct, questioning whether we can ever truly know the ones we love.
Directed by Philip Howard and produced by the same creative team that successfully created Eden Court’s Not About Heroes (2015), the play looks to be as emotionally moving, rich in language, convincing in period drama, and as character-centric as Stewart’s previous successes.
“In Howard’s hands, this Eden Court, Inverness production lifts MacDonald’s play out of its own seemingly stiff-upper-lipped roots and invests it with a theatrical richness that gives it gravitas and depth” The Herald on Not About Heroes
“…[a] tale of birth, death and survival that is ancient and rustic, yet so deeply human that it seeps into modern bones” Edinburgh Review on Mischief by Ellie Stewart
The Return will be performed at the Byre Theatre on 24th February 2018.
SISTER ACT – THE MUSICAL
There is little more uplifting in life than a brilliant musical to override the banality of the everyday and flood the room with light, colour and feel-good songs. In its 78th year and ever-evolving, St Andrews Musical Society brings the university and the wider community together in an ensemble show that promises to ‘rock the theatre’. Sister Act, a divine comedy musical, combines disco, soul and gospel through a narrative that is side-splittingly funny.
The show follows diva Deloris Van Cartier, who on witnessing a murder must, under protective custody, hide as a nun in a convent. Clashing with the righteous and reserved Mother Superior in almost every way, Deloris nevertheless finds her place among the sisterhood when she becomes in charge of the convent’s choir. In helping her sisters to find their voices (and sing in pitch!), she rediscovers her own love for music and experiences the liberating, universal powers of singing and friendship.
SAMS recognizes and celebrates the diversity of its membership, with ‘all bringing something unique’. With incredible close harmony and boundless energy, it will be a joy to see this lively and heart-warming production brought to The Byre stage by and for the whole of the St Andrews community.
Sister Act – The Musical will be performed at the Byre Theatre on the 27th February- 3rd March, 2018.