Rubber Chicken Theatre – Keeping the performing arts alive during the pandemic

Posted: 19 October 2020, in News

Rubber Chicken Theatre is a Social Enterprise that has been producing shows, training and supporting the performing arts in Dunblane for 15 years. It offers drama classes, workshops, community choir, and performing opportunities (on and off stage) for small children through to retired adults. Its goal is to build a performing arts family, nurturing confidence, expression and friendships through the performing arts and making them available to all.

In February this year, our wee Rubber Chicken Theatre family broke the Guinness World Record title for the ‘fastest theatrical production’ with 140 or so performers and 200 or so volunteers going from opening a box of scripts and discovering the show, to performing the full show with costumes, set, lights, choreography etc.  to a full house at the Macrobert Arts Centre 11hrs and 59mins later.

The Wedding Singer

Since then, we should have had 80 kids perform ‘Aladdin,’ our adults perform ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and we should have performed our flagship ‘’show in a week’’ with 200 kids. All of this alongside ongoing drama classes, choir, holiday programmes, school visits and so much more. It would be all too easy to focus on what we’ve missed over the last  7 months. Like so many sectors the arts has bit hit hard, but unlike so many sectors, we’re still a long long way from anything approaching normal.

As a small social enterprise, built around 16 years of shows in Dunblane, using the performing arts to support, grow and develop our community, I decided early on that it was vitally  important for us to remain at the front and centre of everyone’s minds (and social media!) during lockdown.

Practicing outdoors

We have people involved from tiny pre-schoolers right the way through to my community choir retirees and like all of us, they still needed ways to be creative, ways to be involved and ways to connect. As such, over the Covid lockdown we have:

+ Provided a whole range of #virtualchicken challenges including dancing, stage fighting, Shakespeare and loads more
+Used spare costume fabric and show tshirts to make masks for what seems like half of Dunblane
+Ran choir and drama on zoom, along with occasional treasure hunts, nights in etc.
+Rehearsed, collated and edited over 2,000 videos from over 100 performers into a complete ‘showcase online!’ performance
+Ran a weekly Friday night quiz with upwards of 100 teams taking part each week
+Rehearsed and performed a fully outdoors production of ‘Into the  Woods’ – fully compliant with all Covid guidelines in what we think was the first outdoor production in Scotland, with a hugely enthusiastic (and not too soggy!) socially distanced audience.

Into the Woods

There’s no question that we’ve done the right thing in terms of our performing arts family and wider community – financially however the future of Rubber Chicken Theatre remains unclear. We decided early on to offer all our virtual activities free, with a crowdfunder running alongside – well aware that while for some their income remained unchanged, for others, Covid has had a huge financial impact. We received the small business grant of £10,000 and have received furlough for both myself as director and my amazing part-time creative assistant, which has helped to sustain us to this point.

But outdoor theatre (which is our current only option) is massively expensive. For a small social enterprise like ours, while we’re perhaps in a better position than the larger arts organisations to be able to think outside the box and do things a little bit differently, the cost and risks are high.

The upcoming outdoors production

Our next event ‘Hocus Pocus on the Hill’ is an illuminated trail around Holmehill in Dunblane and marks another step forward in thinking for us, with the constantly changing guidance altering on an almost daily basis on what we can and can’t do performance-wise.

For this reason, lots of arts organisations have chosen to hibernate, but financially, reputationally and personally, that’s not an option for us – we want to be front and centre, and ready to let our amazing family on a stage, learning, supporting and performing as soon as we can, and that means keeping Rubber Chicken Theatre living, breathing and vibrant for as long as possible.

Pamela Mackie
Creative Director
Rubber Chicken Theatre