Shakespeare – I know, predictable much – once said, that ‘all the world’s a stage’ and, it’s easy to agree with such a declaration. Never have I been more thrilled, terrified or held in suspense than during my observations of recent seagull attacks on students’ lunches as they wander down Market Street. Truly, it is real drama at its best. Luckily, however, if one wishes to avoid the armada of birds by which our pleasant town continues to be besieged, then I highly recommend a trip to the Byre’s Rapture Bites. These short one-act plays, performed during lunchtime on several dates throughout the spring season, are the perfect cultural snack to enhance one’s free midday hour – and I can assure all, each performance is seagull-free!
This season’s productions showcase three of the most significant critically acclaimed writers of the past century – giving you the opportunity to explore a plethora of styles and themes all during the comfort of your lunchtime break. Each work, universal in nature, with content which continues to resonate today, promises to entice, entertain and educate an audience all within the hour: the perfect starter for a theatre newbie or a satisfying dessert for regulars.
The first show of the programme went up on 15th February with a production of J.M. Barrie’s Twelve-Pound Look. This satirical show explores the complex relationship between men and women all through the lens of comedy – with the characters of Peter Pan and Wendy both removed. Exploring themes of male chauvinism and egotism balanced by the inclusion of female solidarity, it is a one-act drama which continues to speak to modern audiences – and, perhaps, would act as a valuable lesson to some of St Andrews’ Lost Boys. The feedback was wonderful, a strong start to the Byre’s unique venture.
On the 4th March Rapture Theatre returned with Terrence Rattigan’s The Browning Version, a play which follows Greek Classics teacher, Andrew Crocker Harris, who, despite being the focus of humiliation, receives resurrection by a simple act of kindness. This human story, discovering the complex world of emotions through reflections and contemplations, is an intense narrative which, according to the Byre, “only those made of steel will be able to sit through…dry-eyed”. Again, audience members left satisfied, educated and not at all late for an afternoon at work.
The final course on this menu of lunchtime theatre will be Harold Pinter’s A Kind of Alaska, showing on 25th March. This dynamic drama follows Deborah, a middle-aged woman who has recently awoken from a coma and still possesses the mind of her sixteen-year-old self. As a result, she is forced to confront the new world around her. Based on the neurologist Oliver Sacks’ memoir, this production looks set to be an intense and honest awakening for all – hopefully changing the audiences’ perception of a world which is constantly transforming.
Rapture Theatre, a company found in 2000 and led by visionary Michael Emans, aims to ‘enrich the lives of its audiences through high quality touring productions’ – and their determination and effort is clearly exhibited in their passionate performances. With an eclectic portfolio of productions, from Michael Frayn’s tensely suspenseful Democracy to Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tennessee Williams’ and his A Streetcar Named Desire, the cast’s energy and range is to be praised.
This season’s extensive programme demonstrates how Rapture wish to introduce students to the many opportunities and education which theatre can offer. These three plays present students, of all subjects and degrees, with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of their field: for example, psychology students might benefit from Pinter’s exploration of maturity and the mind, whilst discovering the meaning of culture and what it is to be human – in short, all the productions promise powerful emotional responses in their own right.
The Byre Theatre must also be commended for its desire to increase the accessibility of art, somewhat removing the elitism and exclusivity for which theatre has a glaring reputation. With an all-inclusive setting and a vast scope of offers and experiences, the Byre is a hub of variety, putting on productions which are suitable for all backgrounds, schedules and experience.
All plays begin at 1pm at the Byre Theatre and tickets only cost £10. As well as the production, for an extra £4.75 the Byre will include lunch: a chicken, steak, or vegetarian artisan pie with juice, tea, or coffee – all of which is available from the Byre Café Bar from 12pm to enjoy before the show, without the hassle of having to dodge St Andrews’ kamikaze gulls. There is no better place to begin or return to drama than with these one-act performances. So, take a bite out of the diverse and sophisticated menu offered by the Byre this season – all in the space of a lunch hour!