Theatre designers have not been idle since Lockdown. They have used their ‘resting’ creative skills to launch #TakeASeat with Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and make work designed to engage and inspire the audiences they are missing. A collective response to the spaces they cannot be in, it is a call to arms to their craft, an art installation and a love letter to absent audiences, a rallying call for creative and thought-provoking responses that both illustrate and celebrate Scotland’s remarkable theatre industry. Theatre Designer, Claire Halleran who has been very much involved in the project spoke with The Fountain about it in more detail.

TF: What is #TakeASeat, can you tell us more about this project? 

The project started as an online conversation amongst a group of Theatre Designers and Production Managers and quickly turned into a sort of ‘Call to Arms’ to the Freelance community. As the theatres had closed their doors to audiences, we wanted to find a way to use these spaces in a different way, and find that collective creative experience we were all missing, and connect in a different way to audiences who could no longer be seated at a live performance. We came up with using a single chair as our symbol and ‘Take A Seat’ as the provocation, it seemed to be an object that featured in the lives of Designers and Production Managers alike.

“The minute you put a chair on stage, it tells you a period, it tells you a culture, it tells you a civilisation – you can place that space instantly by the information that a chair gives you”
Bob Crowley October 2009

We asked the Scottish Theatre Industry to get involved and create their own response to their situation using a seat as a starting point. We received lots of amazing submissions in the form of photographs, poems, short films, music and stories. All of these can be found on the website as well as our social media pages.

We wanted to bring the seats that had been created together for one live installation. We worked together with Lighting and Sound Designers to create the piece that is in the Lyceum theatre foyer area, a perfect glass box just waiting for something to inhabit it. The installation comes to life at 7.30pm Monday to Saturday and 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday until 3rd October.

TF: Can you explain the major concern for theatres just now (during the pandemic)?

There are many major concerns for the theatres and the theatre industry, with no audiences being able to attend performances they are not able to raise revenue to keep going. With Theatres and Theatre companies unable to make work for audiences, there is a large number of people who are out of work. The theatre industry is supported by a resilient and incredibly resourceful number of freelancers, there is no work for them/us now, I don’t know how we survive this financially and also creatively. The people I work with love what they do, I don’t know anyone who does it to make lots of money, we do it because we appreciate the chance to make work and tell stories.

TF: You must have got some positives out of this project, as well as overcoming challenges, can you tell us about some of those?

The celebration of our incredibly generous, resourceful and positive industry, and how problem solving and creative is such an important skill. That the application of collectively working to bring this all together is at the core of making Theatre, that fire and passion is not going away. The support we have had has been overwhelming and we’re delighted that we could give people some creative culture to absorb in these difficult times. Hopefully we have started to show that there are other ways that we can tell theatrical stories in new spaces.

Photo courtesy of Brian Hartley

#TakeASeat is at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh from Thursday 24 September – Saturday 3 October