With You In The Distance is a promenade theatre piece between one storyteller and one audience member.  From Glasgow’s Briggait, the pair will walk through Glasgow Green of the late 1800s hearing the story of two of the city’s lovers. From Neil John Gibson and Ciaran Stewart is a story about two men falling in love with each other at a time when homosexuality was illegal. The Fountain caught up with them both about the performance and what we can expect.

TF: It’s great to hear about theatre coming back into our lives, what can you tell us about With You In the Distance?

With You In the Distance is the story of two men meeting in Glasgow in the 19th century and falling in love.  Two men shaped by their society’s attitudes towards the sexuality and how it impacted their lives and loves.  The performance lasts about an hour and is like a walking audio book with one story teller and one audience member.  The challenge for the audience member is to listen to the story and make it come alive in the beautiful surroundings of Glasgow Green as they imagine the characters in these spaces. What’s great about it is that we’re offering it in BSL as well with Ciaran who can do the performances in either English or BSL so that the BSL audience can book on any time and any dates of when he is performing.

TF: And can you sum it up in one sentence? 

Two lost people finding an unexpected love and trying to navigate with all the baggage and trauma of their formative years.

TF: What were the key influences for your show Neil?

I was involved in Ben Harrison’s Chalk Walk earlier in year which was a one-hour walking experience for an audience member and a performer.  It was two strangers meeting and finding connection after our long period of isolation.   In developing that, I came up with the concept of With You In the Distance as the natural next step felt like creating a Covid safe outdoor experience but with an additional element of storytelling involved. 

The actual story has been influenced heavily by my own experience of growing up gay but the experiences of the majority of the queer community are reflected in the show.  Things are improving for the LGBTQIA+ community but when men like Samuel Luiz are being murdered in the street and people hold protests in Glasgow Green with slogans like ‘Women are Born not Worn’, there is still a lot of work to be done.  The stories of the queer community need to be told to shape a better future where the next generation grow up in a more understanding and tolerant society.  Where children are equipped with the language and life skills to communicate with one another to allow young queer people to develop into the adults they deserve to be. That is why initiatives like the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) are so important.

TF: Interesting choice of venue, The Briggait, what made you decide to use there for the production?

The Briggait is the heart of the story with Stewart Patterson, the first character we meet, working at the fish market.   The Briggait represents Glasgow at the height of it’s Victorian trading success. It is, however, just the beginning of the performance as the story teller and audience member walk around Glasgow Green to the places where the lover’s story unfolded. 

TF: What else are you both working on at the moment? 

Neil: I am currently firmly focused on With You In The Distance at the moment. However, we are looking at a possible return of The Real Dames of Pantoland for a digital offering again this Christmas.  I am also looking to develop some new writing for EHG Theatre with a number of artists across the industry so keep an eye on the website for more information. 

Ciaran: Straight after the project, I’m heading back down to London on a production that I can’t quite talk about yet but its super exciting and it involves the idea of access. I’ve applied for some funding to lead my own project and start writing again which is something that I’ve developed during lockdown so hopefully somethings come out of that. And just keep auditioning away just like a classic actor! 

With You In The Distance ran at The Briggait, Glasgow until 7th August. Check out the EHG website for more information