The hills of Perthshire were packed with the sounds and songs of A Christmas Carol this time last year.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s 2019 Christmas show was Charles Dickens’ greatest festive fable about how bad times can turn for the better. The forced closing of all theaters and entertainment venues this year due to security measures imposed due to the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic has left those facilities unfortunately empty.
Creativity was not discouraged by this. There has been an explosion of online events over the past nine months that have been a lifeline for fans and artists alike. These ranged from the three-weekly Scenes for Survival series of 55 bite-sized plays that were kept under wraps at the National Theatre of Scotland to the similarly styled Rapture Mini Bites provided every Friday by the Rapture Theatre.
With its online Shades of Tay campaign, which has featured more than 20 premiers of new plays for the theater’s Love Letter to Scotland season, Pitlochry Festival Theatre itself has reached some two and a half million viewers. This has greatly expanded the audience of Pitlochry, as the PFT is a 54-seat venue.
By now, both theaters in Scotland had hoped to be able to open their doors to the public to witness once again the magic of theatre firsthand. However, as existing laws sadly limit such aspirations, in a number of ways, artistic imaginations have made the best of the situation.
The Magic of Christmas, for instance, has just opened its tellingly named Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Clare Grogan and last year’s Ebenezer Scrooge, Colin McCredie, lead a group of actors in the search for the North Star in this new Christmas movie, made in collaboration with the Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling. In Neil Simon’s play Barefoot in the Park last summer, Grogan was seen briefly on stage in Pitlochry before the show had to close after a handful of performances due to pandemic restrictions.
Down in Perth, plans have been scrapped for a live production of a socially distant pantomime, but Perth Theatre will still broadcast a new live show from its stage. Oh, yes, there we are! A Search For Long Lost Light and Laughter is a new immersive play by the daily pantomime dame Barrie Hunter of Perth, written and performed.
Hunter’s work, presented on Zoom, the social conferencing app that changed social interactions during the pandemic, would allow viewers to engage in celebrating items from their different couches.
The Royal Lyceum Theatre has already launched its online Lyceum Christmas Tales season in Edinburgh, a collection of short, family-friendly stories. Already available are pre-recorded works by Karine Polwart, with four more to come. The final quartet is to be broadcast live next week from the Lyceum stage.
In a series of 15-minute episodes, The Gaiety Theatre in Ayr introduces The Scunner That Stole Christmas, while Glasgow’s lunchtime theater masters of A Play, A Pie and A Pint show A Wee Stocking Filler, with all proceeds going to the Spirit Help charity of David Hayman. The National Theatre of Scotland presents Rapunzel’s production of Johnny McKnight online, while the Tron Theatre of Glasgow presents High Man Pen Meander, a virtual walk through the secret corners of the Tron celebrating the late Edwin Morgan’s poetry.
Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh is producing other online Christmas shows, while Dundee Rep is hosting Shine On, a two-part season of online plays shown on the YouTube channel of the theater. Elsewhere, you still have plenty of holiday fun to have, too.
What’s going on beyond this year’s online Christmas theater range is anyone’s guess. No one is saying that the live experience can be replaced by online performances. But once theaters fully open, the opportunities to interact with new audiences that digital content provides should not be missed. If that were to happen, it would really be the case with Bah! Wow! Humbug!
7 Online viewing of Scottish Christmas shows
Pitlochry Festival Theatre, The Magic of Christmas, through Dec. 23.
Via Dec. 13, High Man Pen Meander, Tron Theatre, Glasgow.
Oh, yes, there we are! Perth Theatre, Dec. 11-24 A Search For Long Lost Light and Laughter, Perth Theatre.
Christmas Tales of the Lyceum, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 16-20 December.
The Christmas Scunner Who Robbed. Ayr, Gaiety Theater. Online for new episodes on Dec. 10, 17, 23 and 24. The Deception