Theatre Venue of the Month: Paterson's Land

Part of Moray House, Paterson's Land will be transformed during the Fringe into a temporary home for some of the finest work Scottish Opera and other high-profile theatre companies have to offer

Feature by Illya Kuryakin | 18 Jul 2013

Built as a teacher training academy in the late 1800s, Paterson's Land is still used today by Moray House School of Education. It is perhaps best known to Edinburgh residents as the former site of The Bongo Club on Holyrood Road – the nightclub occupied the building's ground floor for several years. With its imposing facade and labyrinthine interior, it makes a remarkably atmospheric setting for a pop-up theatre venue, and this summer it will be home to some of the finest theatre, opera and performance practitioners Scotland has to offer.

The General Director of Scottish Opera, Alex Reedjik, is enthusiastic about his company's tenure at the venue this August. "Fringe venues are notoriously hard to find, and we wanted somewhere flexible enough that we could showcase a range of work, so when this opportunity for a partnership with the University of Edinburgh came up we were pleased," he comments. "Once we’d programmed our own work, we realised we had a bit of spare capacity and invited some of our friends in other leading Scottish companies to join us. We’re delighted to have such a high quality programme and to be working alongside so many of our talented peers."

Those leading Scottish companies include the National Theatre of Scotland, whose Ménage à Trois is described as "a beautiful study of love, obsession, loneliness and manipulation," and is a collaboration between performer Claire Cunningham and choreographer and video artist Gail Sneddon. Tron Theatre Company bring their acclaimed production of James Joyce's Ulysses to the Fringe, while Theatre Uncut offer a double bill by David Greig.

A spokesman for Scottish Opera gave us a run-down of their string of performances at Paterson's Land this August: "Scottish Opera will perform five shows: 2011 Fringe hit and Herald Angel award winner The Seven Deadly Sins and new show, Dance Derby, based on the dance marathons of depression-era America, both co-productions with Company Chordeliaits innovative shows for babies and toddlers BabyO and SensoryO; and Johnny McKnight and Gareth Williams’ new short opera Last One Out. The latter is presented alongside John & Zinnie Harris’s new short opera, The Gardenboth shows having been originally commissioned by Sound Festival and performed in Aberdeen to capacity audiences in 2012."

With BabyO and SensoryO both breakout hits, allowing mums and dads to introduce their offspring to the delights of opera through interactive workshops and performances, Scottish Opera have been enrapturing a new generation of young music fans. SensoryO, set in "a magical, night-time world where anything is possible," is aimed at 18-month-old babies to 3-year old children, and features music composed by Rachel Dury. BabyO, also composed by Drury, is aimed at 6-month-old to 18-month-old babies, and takes place in "a secret garden full of busy bees, ducks and splashing fish." 

The Seven Deadly Sins meanwhile revives the classic 1930s satirical opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, in a production masterminded by director/choreographer Kally Lloyd-Jones. Described as a "cutting critique of capitalism," the production won a Herald Angel Award in 2011, and could not arrive at a more aposite time, allowing the audience to take a witty and musical ride through the setting of a glamorous 1930s film studio, drawing some apt comparisons with celebrity-obsessed, recession-hit Britain.

With a courtyard bar and Chapters Restaurant on hand to provide refreshments, and only a short walk from other festival hubs such as the Pleasance, Paterson's Land looks set to be one of the jewels of this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

See website for dates, times and prices throughout August