Theatre Venue of the Month: Macrobert

For the past eighteen months, the <strong>Macrobert</strong> has been quietly developing a reputation as one of the central belt's most dynamic theatres

Feature by Gareth K Vile | 05 May 2011

With a programme that ranges from Dolly Parton tributes, comedy festivals and local dramatic societies to international dance and circus, the Macrobert's Artistic Director Liam Sinclair has expanded the programme beyond its traditional association with Stirling University.

"Macrobert has a wide audience base," explains Markus Stitz, Marketing Manager. "Our audiences start at 6 weeks and go through to retired pensioners. As such our programme has to be dynamic to respond to this diverse and interesting mix of people. There is a huge variety but, we believe, something for everybody."

Situated on the University campus – it is part of the same complex that hosts the library and union – it would be easy for the venue to limit its programme to a student audience. "Between staff and students there are around 10,000 people involved in the University and so we need to work hard to find ways to engage them in the arts facility that is right on their doorstep," Stitz admits. "Macrobert is well known for our work with children and young people and so we're looking at extending how we think about young people to include people in their early twenties."

However, its large stage and comfortable auditorium, seating almost 500, has made it ideal for visiting dance companies. Indeed, an alliance with Norwegian companies and the visit of Jasmin Vardimon saw the Macrobert claiming the space traditionally occupied by Tramway for experimental choreography.

"We've got a great space for dance performance," Stitz continues, "and well developed relationships with good promoters who bring us exciting work." And being equidistant from both Glasgow and Edinburgh ensures that it can pull in punters from both East and West. "We've got a great relaxed venue, brilliant performance spaces and fantastic and affordable food. Combine this with interesting programming and there are lots of reasons to visit."

Because of its location, the Macrobert is well placed to collect the various touring companies from across Scotland: Random Accomplice brought their Smalltown, Janis Claxton her Humanimalia. From further abroad, Moroccan acrobats Chouf Ouchouf arrived in April, and the May programme includes both Scottish Opera's Clockwork and Iain Heggie's award winning King of Scotland merging both contemporary circus theatricality and a traditional heritage. The Puppet Animation Festival is also coming to town.

These last two events reveal Macrobert's concern for an inclusive theatre: for a venue that also includes a cinema and is often hired out by local companies, the programming reflects its ethos. Stirling is often overlooked, due to its East and West Coast neighbours. Yet the imagination of the Macrobert team refuses to acknowledge any limitations. Last summer they even invited Fura De Baus, most famous for their Marquis De Sade scandal at the Fringe some years back, to lead a young people's theatre festival.That sort of bravery, which encouraged an often neglected audience back to an engaged and inquiring performance programme, could be a template for Glasgow and Edinburgh to follow.