One of Scotland’s up and coming directors, Caitlin Skinner has many strings to her bow. The once Creative Administrator of Lung Ha’s Theatre Company has been working freelance since October but that doesn’t mean she’s been idle, in fact the very opposite. Caitlin is one of the driving forces behind Scrapyard; a theatre project which develops and shows work with a very quick turn around. You may have seen some of Scrapyard’s work at this year’s Manipulate Festival back in February. Caitlin is also the Director of Village Pub Theatre, who are showing some of the highlights of their work at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre from 31 March – 05 April.
Why don’t you start by describing what Village Pub Theatre do.
So Village Pub Theatre [VPT] is a pop-up new writing theatre company based in a pub [the Village Pub in Leith]. It’s made up of six playwrights and myself as the director. We started up in 2012 and since then we’ve presented 73 new short plays by 34 Scottish writers. We present them as script in hand performances, kind of low-fi, homemade evenings about once a month accompanied by beer and home baking.
What difference do you think it makes performing short plays instead of full length performances?
A lot of what we’re presenting at the Traverse are plays that started as short plays and are being developed into full-length plays. I suppose what I’ve noticed are the writers we work with regularly, they become very concise. Rarely is their work over written: it’s sharp, to the point and clear. And in the pub you have that direct relationship with the audience, so you can’t get away with boring them. There’s nowhere to hide. Moving forward to develop them into a full-length play means you’ve got to think about how to continue that style but on a bigger scale. For some of the work we’ve developed that’s been a really easy journey but sometimes it’s been a bit challenging: are we padding here, are we really developing it, how do we get what was good about that ten minute version into the full version? It’s an interesting process and it’s not always easy but I’m really excited about the work we’re sharing.
Have you also faced a similar challenge up scaling from the Village Pub’s stage, to the Traverse?
So we’re doing these readings Monday to Friday where the audience are actually going to be on the stage, so it will feel a little different from your normal experience in Traverse 1; we’ll be bringing a sense of intimacy into that space. Then on Saturday night we’ll be doing a best of the VPT that will be all of our favourite short works with the full audience. That’s why we’re not in Traverse 2 really. Because we wanted a challenge, something different, we wanted to see what small plays look like on a big stage. That’s really exciting for us. We’ve been going for nearly two years and it’s time for us to think about what we could do, what we want to do. We’ll be bringing our own house style to the Traverse so I think it will feel warm and homemade, chaotic and friendly.
What are your team of writers like and what sort of things do they write about?
They’re a mixture actually. We’ve got some writers who are very new and we’ve got some quite experienced writers. The way that VPT works is occasionally we have themes for our monthly events. Mostly the writers are writing for that theme, which is great because it brings out new ideas, new challenges and you make the kind of work you wouldn’t other wise make. Actually some of the work’s been really surprising. In March our theme was erotica and the work that came out of that was tender and intelligent and beautiful. I think it was some of the best writing we’ve ever had because that theme made people go to a different place. I think our writers are some of the most exciting voices in Scottish theatre at the moment and they’re feeding each other. So it’s become a collective thing where everyone’s growing their work and developing their work together.
This collation of multiple voices is something you’ll have also experienced by doing your Tweet Plays. What do you find having such a diverse cross section of opinions brings to a theme?
The Tweet Plays [a play written in a single tweet] is interesting. The Tweet Plays we did at The Lyceum, [giving a presentation of Tweet Plays before a Lyceum performance] people were really experimenting with style. It was exciting for people to be experimenting with form as well as content. Even in 140 characters, how can you capture a style of writing? That’s exciting. The first bunch of Tweet Plays had such a broad range of content and topics that people explored. Social media has been a bit of an undercurrent for VPT anyway. We’ve always worked a lot on social media because we don’t have any money, so that’s how we’ve reached our audience.
What would you like to see as the progression for the VPT?
It’s still a question; so far we’ve developed organically. It’s been really built by the people who’ve made it and the people who’ve been involved. So I hope that will continue, I hope whatever comes next will evolve from whatever we’re doing now. I would hate to say ‘this is what we’re gonna do next.’ And actually we’ve done quite different things so I feel like we could possibly be a bit surprising. We’re definitely committed to new writing and we’re definitely committed to developing work. The pub is the place for taking risks and trying something else, and the more we can move that forward into making more theatre, the better. As to how we’ll do that and what that will look like, who knows yet.
What can we expect to see from your writers at the Traverse?
We’ve got a lot of comedy, we’ve got a lot of darkness. There’s a rom-com, some murder, some history. I think what I’m trying to say is it’s quite diverse. There are the six full-length plays that are in development that we are showcasing Monday to Friday – one a day with two on the Friday. On the Saturday we’ll be presenting eight of our favourite plays from the VPT repertoire and also a bunch of Tweet Plays as well. You can come every night for only £24 – a weeks worth of theatre. We’d love it people wanted to come and see lots of different things, or just come once, you’ll still enjoy it.