As we know all too well, the last year has been incredibly tough on the world of the stage. From halted productions to closed theatres, at points it has seemed impossible that the industry will recover. Reassuringly, new talent, determination, and creativity is still emerging despite this. In this case, it takes the form of a new, independent theatre company in Edinburgh, founded around showcasing queer art.
Speaking to Doug Stephenson, one of the executive producers alongside Issi Ladd, and Emily Oulton, who works as an artistic director with Ben Fleming, the two tell me about their mission as a company to create an open space for queer creators where their work can be celebrated.
Emily: “In terms of a queer space in Edinburgh, I think we all have found it slightly frustrating. Between the four of us we have a lot of experience in the Edinburgh theatre scene, whether within student circles or beyond, and I think what we all found quite frustrating is a lack of consistent queer representation. Considering Edinburgh has such a great queer community and it’s home of such amazing culture, we didn’t understand why those two things hadn’t really married. The aim of the company is to create work that brings queer experience in a nuanced, authentic way to mainstream audiences. To take up space with the authority and authenticity that we have, because If you take up space then people notice you, and then people can see themselves in the work that we’re creating.”
Doug: “All of us who are part of Three Pound Coin have experienced being a part of a marginalised group or a protected class, and we’re always expected to keep ourselves to ourselves and keep to our own space. I think we want to create a community that isn’t afraid of that and is confident to take up that space – I think all of us are done with having to tiptoe around. In the past I’ve always felt [as someone who is] non-binary, will they understand this or accept that, but one of the things we want to do is create a safe space where you can tell us this and it’s just not extraordinary, its just you and what you want to be.”
It’s clear that the central ethos of the company places focus on being as authentic as possible, and creating a community for performers, producers, directors and the like to feel understood and be vocal about their experiences. Doug and Emily tell me they are currently working on three shows, one written by Emily and Ben. Doug mentions how much they enjoy reading the work written by their team, claiming to be their “number one fan.” It seems this team dynamic has been a real strength for the company so far, with a great working balance that has set the company up to face the challenges of Covid-19 restrictions.
Doug: “[One of the key aims] from a production point of view was to be an example of how theatre can be Covid compliant. And how we can still do our art and stil make our voices heard but over, say, an online radio broadcast or by recordings. All of them are Covid safe and can be done in a way that will still be as fulfilling, as important and have those really clear messages that we want to get out, and also allow us to stay safe. Of course in the future we are definitely going to branch out into “physical” theatre to diversify, but for now we really want to create content that can be watched, viewed and interacted with safely.”
Emily: “It’s not been without its challenges, but it’s been very good for all of us to learn how to be more creative with the constraints that we have – so one of the plays was deliberately written with the intention of being broadcast as a radio play, so that makes rehearsals a lot easier. But one of the other plays is meant to be a conversation between two people on a roof and they’re meant to be physically with each other which is harder, […] to recreate that atmosphere than one that has been deliberately written for radio, with people meant to be apart. It’s been a good fun challenge.”
Three Pound Coin will be breaking away from tradition, not only in adapting to the new constrained world of online theatre, but attempting to escape the “echo chamber” student theatre can sometimes find itself in. Doug and Emily tell me they are keen to experiment with a wider community, specifically the young queer community in Edinburgh, to create work that is more inclusive and perhaps less traditional than student circles, which can sometimes be limiting.
As for outreach, the company is already collaborating with several charities such as LGBT Youth Scotland, LGBT Health and Wellbeing, and the Respect Me campaign, which focuses on anti- bullying. Through fundraising and working with youth groups, Three Pound Coin is certainly set to be working with a broad community of people to create some wonderful inclusive projects.
The next big thing on the horizon for the company is a 24 hour radio show in collaboration with MoJo Edinburgh, ‘MoJo Flips the Coin’. This unmissable event will be full of interviews, music, and even plays, and will be broadcasting on the 19th of February. Make sure to keep an eye on Three Pound Coin’s social media (Instagram: @threepoundcoin, Facebook: Three Pound Coin Theatre) for all the information.
The passion and drive the team displays is infinitely inspiring for the future of theatre, and no doubt will see them thriving through the Fringe and beyond.
image: Three Pound Coin Theatre