Inverness College Drama Degree

8 Feb 2013 in Dance & Drama, Highland, Showcase

Robert Livingston welcomes the opportunities to be offered by the new Drama Degree in development at Inverness College

IT’S not easy making theatre in the Highlands.

EVEN though a full house in a village hall might involve a sizeable proportion of the local population, it can’t compare with a four-week run in a city theatre. Theatre companies, and individual performers, directors and writers, are scattered across a huge area and rarely have the kinds of opportunities to get together that their urban counterparts take for granted. And getting the Central Belt media to take notice is a perennial challenge.

UHI Drama

UHI Drama

But the rewards can be great. There’s a closeness to the audience that it’s hard to match in urban venues, especially when the subject matter is of local interest and relevance. There’s a wealth of material to work with, historic, linguistic and contemporary, as well as the opportunity to draw on the rich musical traditions and talents of the area.

Nonetheless, it requires a special kind of person to be based in the Highlands and make theatre here. They need to be adaptable and resourceful, to manage what’s often called a form of ‘cultural crofting’. They can’t rely on just auditioning for other companies, they have to make their own opportunities, and above all they have to work closely with the communities in which they live.

So here at HI~Arts we were delighted to get the news that from September 2013, Inverness College UHI will be offering a new BA (Hons) Drama Degree (subject to approval), not least because it’s a Drama Degree with a difference, as the College’s own description makes clear:

The distinctive BA (Hons) programme aspires to explore, make and take forward performance in the Highland region. It has been devised to ensure that the study and making of performance in the Highlands is reflective of the specific challenges and opportunities presented to creative practitioners in areas of low urban density and mixed economy. However, to ensure the programme maintains an outward looking perspective, it will continually relate its work to that of the international contemporary performance community. Our emphasis will be on contemporary, rural and folk performance, but historical practices will be examined as a way of better understanding the theatrical present in which the students learn and will eventually work. Our mode of study will encompass a strong practice based approach informed by more conventional scholarly activity.

Throughout their studies, students will be encouraged to work as independent scholars/artists/performers. As a cohort they will be trained and developed as a creative producing company/troupe and will be encouraged and supported in maintaining this collaboration on exit from their studies. To that end, students will be trained in the myriad skills of performance-making including skills in acting, devising, technical, writing and cultural planning. By developing multi-skilled and multi-disciplined individuals we expect our graduates to be well equipped for a broad range of vocational roles within the cultural sector, including independent performance initiators and makers, as well as for further study at postgraduate level.

The degree has been specially designed for those students who have undertaken an HNC or HND in Acting and Performance (or equivalent). Direct entry into Year Three will be available from September 2013. From 2014, direct entry will be available into Year Two.

While the growth of drama and dance in the Highlands owes a huge amount to some long standing companies, from Mull to Dogstar, and from Right Lines to Out of the Darkness, it’s been heartening to see some new companies emerging in the last year or two, as new graduates aim to create opportunities for themselves back in their home territories. So, this new course should be a major step forward in both equipping the drama workers of the future, and also in encouraging them to stay and make work in the Highlands. Definitely a case of ‘watch this space’!

© Robert Livingston, 2013