THEY have caused misery and heartbreak for homeowners and millions of pounds worth of damage across Scotland.
But now a Highland theatre company is hoping to turn the prospect of an impending environmental calamity into a form of entertainment with a play about how locals deal with a freak flood.
Written by Euan Martin and Dave Smith, co-founders of Right Lines Productions, Rapid Departure will see audiences take on the roles of villagers forced to flee to an emergency rest centre which comes under siege itself.
Ticket-holders for the interactive theatre production, which will tour village halls across Scotland in May and June, will mingle with a five-strong cast of characters as they grapple with a deepening crisis unfolding inside and outside the venue.
However, Martin says Rapid Departure will deploy humour to tackle issues like climate change, the impact of extreme weather on remote communities and debates over renewable energy. Scotland’s environment watchdog, which is supporting the production, hopes it will even help home-owners plan for the prospect of a flood alert.
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Martin is based in Moray, one of the worst-affected areas hit by flooding in Scotland in recent years. A part-time social worker, he also acts as a rest centre manager in the event of a real-life local emergency.
His company’s previous productions have been inspired by the impact of global capitalism on Highland communities, tourism industry clichés used to promote Scotland, the perils of business start-ups and the antics of the Naked Rambler.” Martin said: “A big part of what we’re about is putting on small-scale shows in the Highlands and Islands and rural areas where people don’t get the chance to see much live theatre.
“We started doing interactive village hall comedy theatre shows around 15 years ago. Our first aim is to entertain people, as we like doing comedy, but we also like to tackle shows which have issued embedded in them.
“You can enjoy them for the madcap nonsense or you can actually get a stronger message coming up underneath if you care to look for it.
“It’s important to say that although the show is comedy, we won’t be making fun of the issue, as it’s a very serious one.
“The audiences who come along will soon discover they are actually evacuees who are supposed to be following a flood alert plan to turn up at an emergency rest centre to seek shelter.
“Things will begin to happen to them once they’re ensconced inside. People will be being gently persuaded to do things from time to time and there will be quite a bit of audience participation, they won’t just be there to observe, although people won’t really have to act as such.
“The conceit of the show is that things are really getting worse and worse outside and that no-one is able to leave because it’s so dangerous.
“We are using some special effects, customised for each venue, but we don’t want to give too much away in case it spoils the surprise.”
Right Lines has secured backing from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and national arts agency Creative Scotland for the show, to be launched on Eigg in May after two weeks of rehearsals on what is billed as “Scotland’s greenest island”. Tour venues include Skye, Plockton, Knoydart, Fochabers, Craigellachie, Birnam, Pitlochry and Portsoy.
Laura MacKenzie-Stuart, portfolio manager for theatre at Creative Scotland, which awarded the show almost £70,000, said: “We are delighted to support Euan Martin’s Rapid Departure, a new piece of interactive immersive comedy theatre designed for rural audiences.
“The production will raise important issues of climate change and the environment which are relevant to those communities.”
Stewart Prodger, flood communications manager at SEPA, said: “As Scotland’s flood warning authority, we’re always keen to support initiatives or projects which actively raise awareness of the risk of flooding, especially in some of the more rural communities where this play will tour.
“The interactive style of these productions will hopefully provide an interesting platform for highlighting the impact which flooding can have on people’s lives. We hope that this will also encourage people to consider taking actions to prepare for flooding.”