Scotland's theatre, opera, comedy and other live events are heading into the great outdoors – Brian Ferguson

The requirements for social distancing mean many live events will have to be held outside, in untested locations, writes Brian Ferguson.

Scottish Opera is to stage a series of outdoor shows across the country, at locations like Edinburgh Zoo, the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian, the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and Eden Court Musuem in Inverness

Glorious sunshine had turned into a cool but starry night on the banks of Loch Tay as lines of twinkling lights led the way towards the evening’s al fresco entertainment. Mugs of tea were our drinks of choice for the night of live music at Taymouth Marina, where the audiences huddled around a fire and tucked into cartons of takeaway food at its first-ever festival.

It seems strange to think that this same event, which took place in Perthshire last September, could be pretty easily replicated against this year, despite the huge upheaval the Scottish events sector has seen since then. Replicating the picture-postcard weather which the watersports haven enjoyed that day might be another matter.

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But I couldn’t help but recall the cosy and intimate nature of that event when I was told of Scottish Opera’s plans to bring live performances back next month, in two separate strands, on the first weekend in September.

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The first will see a brand new production of La Bohème performed by a scaled-back cast and orchestra under the canopy of a paint shop, on temporary stages in a car park, against a backdrop of graffiti art, before a maximum audience of around 100 in a marquee. It is hard to imagine a scene more far more removed from a night at the 1,500-capacity Theatre Royal.

As if the logistical challenges of staging a week-long run of performances outside its production base in an untried location wasn’t enough of a challenge, Scottish Opera will be heading off on tour around Scotland for several weeks, staging ‘pop-up’ performances of excerpts from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, rocking up at locations as varied as Custom House Quay in Greenock, Edinburgh Zoo, the Easterhouse estate in Glasgow and outside Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.

As I write this, with Storm Francis sweeping across Scotland, it is strange to think it is officially summer. The weather is so changeable in Scotland these days that there seems as much chance of decent weather in March or September than in June or July. Edinburgh’s festivals were buffeted by atrocious storms at the beginning of August last year. Yet audiences have become used to gambling on the weather when buying tickets for outdoor light shows across the country from October through to January.

The question is how practical will it be for concert organisers, comedy promoters and theatre companies to attempt to stage shows outdoors until indoor venues are able to operate at anything like full capacity. Scotland’s site-specific theatre experts, Leith-based Grid Iron, gave it everything they had to try to get a show on in Edinburgh this week, but eventually had to admit defeat. Even if it had gone ahead I doubt whether it would have been storm proof.

Yet something tells me that arts companies and event organisers are going to have to find a way of doing things outdoors, and weather-proofing them as best as possible, as part of Scotland’s new cultural landscape.

That could well mean completely new kinds of events being staged in completely untested locations, deploying the latest sound, light-projection and animation technology to transform spaces. But my hunch is that performers, producers, designers and directors will be very much up for the challenge of creating memorable shows and that audiences starved of live events and desperate for alternatives to online entertainment will be up for the challenge of experiencing them.

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