A Year Like No Other

‘Normal’, as so many have discovered, is something that can disappear quickly but return only slowly. Recovering from the uncertainty of complete shutdown was a gradual process for the Eastgate Theatre this year but with the generous support of friends, the hunger of people to experience creative activities and performances again, plus the continuing development of the programme, the theatre is now fully back up and running, welcoming regular customers and new visitors.

Ready, Steady, Splosh…

Supported by the Tiny Changes Fund, and presented by Let’s Pretend, each of the brand-new Stuck in the Mud! sessions will use games, music and puppetry to explore the feelings associated with lockdown and loss of freedoms. Very much ‘light touch’ rather than covid-specific, the sessions will also offer a mix of literacy, drama, movement and song.

Each child who participates in the sessions will receive a take-away pack that includes a copy of Pants on my Face, a book written for early years children by Jackie Hardie. A childcare expert and nursery owner, she was motivated to write the book after hearing one of the children at her nursery asking why people were wearing pants on their faces in the wake of covid.

The sessions, which begin on 11 January and run through to early February, are 45 minutes long and will have a maximum of six children in each class. They are particularly recommended for children who parents feel would most benefit from a fun drama workshop in a small group which aims to aid wellbeing and confidence after such a challenging period of time.

Stuck in the Mud! is the latest addition to the Eastgate’s range of classes specifically aimed at young children, as well as a wider programme of health and wellbeing classes that together use music, dance and drama to add richness to the lives of people of all ages.

The Stuck in the Mud! drama sessions begin on 11 January and run through until 9 February. For more details, call Box Office on 01721 725777 or go online.

Let the Festivities Begin

The festive season begins with Ebenezer Scrooge receiving a double treatment – starting with singing, dancing and panto mayhem as Tweed Theatre Youth (2-4 Dec) provide a lively and modern retelling of the classic story.

This is followed by a tour de force of a one-man show as master storyteller Guy Masterson brings the old miser’s story to life in A Christmas Carol (9 Dec). A rather more faithful telling of the much-loved tale, it is an astonishing performance of physical agility and verbal dexterity.

Young children will also love a screening of the CBeebies Christmas Show (5 Dec), which sees a telling of The Night Before Christmas complete with a star cast of CBeebies presenters. There is also a chance to dive into the world of Magic Gareth (10 Dec) in a critically acclaimed Christmas magic show full of tricks, balloons, games and nonsense.

But Christmas is not just for youngsters – with adults also well catered for. Following an enforced year off, Peebles Concert Band (11 Dec) also return to playing together as they present a special winter celebration of music, ranging from movie theme tunes to blues, classical and even rock.

And it really wouldn’t be Christmas without a couple of festive staples: the Royal Opera House’s glittering production of The Nutcracker (12 Dec) captured live on screen, plus The Downright Homespun Radio Company’s triumphant, wise-cracking return to the stage in this year’s production of Amerrycana Christmas (16-18 Dec).

The Eastgate’s festive programme runs throughout December, with tickets for all performances available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online.

Musical Love Letter to the Mountains

Musician and songwriter Jenny Sturgeon returns to the Eastgate Theatre later this month with The Living Mountain – a spellbinding audio-visual interpretation of what is widely regarded as one of the finest books ever written on Britain’s nature and landscape.

Nan Shepherd’s book of the same name, written during the Second World War, describes the author’s many journeys into the Cairngorm mountains. Drilling down to the finest detail, her writing explores the rocks, rivers, wildlife and hidden aspects of the landscape to create a powerful meditation on the magnificence of mountains and our relationship with wild places.

Bikes on Film

Given how bikes and the Tweed Valley go hand in hand, Peebles is a perfect port of call for the Big Bike Film Night – a carefully curated touring collection of short and documentary films with a distinct Kiwi twist.

Covering every possible cycling discipline, from road to gravel, mountain biking, triathlon and more, this treasure chest of films from around the world is a true celebration of all things two-wheeled.

Life on Earth

As the world’s attention turns to the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, the Eastgate Theatre welcomes a pioneering natural history cinematographer whose work in the polar regions has given him a front row seat when it comes to documenting our changing climate.

On Thin Ice

The film, predicted to scoop a host of awards at film festivals around the world, tells the story of a climber who seeks adventure over publicity, with a pure approach to climbing that sees him put up some of the boldest solo ascents in history. With no cameras, no rope and no margin for error, Leclerc’s approach is the essence of solo adventure.

When Mortimer and Rosen began to work on The Alpinist, the plan was to follow Leclerc on his adventures and see where they ended up. That was easier said than done: Leclerc would sometimes ‘forget’ to tell the filmmakers where he was heading. As Leclerc comments in the film, “It wouldn’t be a solo for me if somebody was there. It wouldn’t even be remotely close to the adventure I was looking for.”

Comparisons with Free Solo – about climbing superstar Alex Honnold’s rope-free climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan – are inevitable. However, The Alpinist is much more than Free Solo with snow and ice. For a start, the characters are very different; while Honnold was already one of the most revered figures in climbing even before Free Solo, the gawky, camera-shy Leclerc was largely unknown outside of the climbing community of Squamish, British Columbia.

And there is another crucial difference between the two films. In March 2018, as filming neared completion, Mortimer and Rosen received news that Leclerc had gone missing while climbing in Alaska with a local man named Ryan Johnson. In a moment, the film switches from a celebration of adventure to a devastating reminder of the risks attached.

The bodies of Leclerc and Johnson were never found, only a length of rope sticking out from a pile of heavy snow following what was presumed to be a huge avalanche.

Having had time to take stock, all those involved agreed to continue with the film. The filmmakers did two more interviews – with Brette Harrington, Leclerc’s girlfriend and herself an elite climber, and Leclerc’s mother, Michelle Kuipers – to include layers of grief that add a searing honesty to the film.

The Alpinist screens at the Eastgate Theatre at 7pm, Thurs 28 Oct. Tickets £15, £25 adult and under 16, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.

Carmen becomes The Car Man

Fuelled by heat and desire, the inhabitants are driven into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge in a powerful and uncompromising vision of small-town America.

Screened at the Eastgate Theatre on Tuesday 19 October, the performance by Bourne’s New Adventures dance company combines vivid storytelling with one of the most passionately dramatic, and instantly recognisable, scores ever written.

It’s another memorable reworking by a choreographer and dance repertoire that have become known for telling stories with a unique theatrical twist. Perhaps best-known for its production of Swan Lake, with its corps de ballet of menacing male swans, New Adventures have also made their mark on a whole range of ballet, opera, film and literary classics.

“Of all our New Adventure’s dance productions, The Car Man has become the show that is most often mentioned as a ‘favourite’ by audience members, and it’s loved by the dancers too who relish the chance to perform such gutsy and challenging roles,” commented Bourne.

Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man screens at the Eastgate Theatre at 7pm, Tues 19 Oct. Tickets £17, £10 under 16s, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.

RANT Reel into Peebles

A meeting of four of the country’s finest players, the quartet use just their fiddles to weave a tapestry of melodies, textures, layers and sounds.

Together, Bethany Reid from Shetland, Anna Massie and Lauren MacColl from the Black Isle, and latest member Gillian Frame from Arran showcase the combined power of their instruments with a repertoire unearthed from both old collections and their own contemporary writing.

The band’s most recent album, The Portage, was recorded over four days in the renowned Mackintosh Queen’s Cross – the only church in the world to be designed by architect, artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The recording – a close reflection of their live sound – was awarded ‘Top of the World’ status from Songlines Magazine.

RANT play the Eastgate Theatre, 7.30pm, Fri 8 Oct. Tickets £17, £15, £8 under 16s, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.

When Jamie met Phil

Jamie, an S3 pupil at Peebles High School has been playing the accordion for a little over four years and, though he has played with Peebles Youth Orchestra and Peebles and Biggar Accordion and Fiddle Clubs, he usually plays solo.  He first came to the attention of the Eastgate in 2019 when he won the Callants Annual Busking Competition during the Creative Peebles Festival.

One of the tunes Jamie plays is one of Phil’s songs called Miss Rowan Davies and he first saw Aly and Phil play at the Eastgate three years ago just as he was about to leave Eddleston Primary School..

Jamie said:

“It was amazing to be able to meet Phil Cunningham and chat to and play for him.   He was really nice and gave me some good tips.   The best bit was when he had a shot of my accordion – I’ve never heard it sound so good.   I feel really privileged that Phil Cunningham has played my accordion.  Watching both Phil and Ally playing up close too was so good – I can’t believe how fast their hands work, and really inspires me to keep on learning.  I’d like to thank the Eastgate Theatre for inviting me to come along to meet Phil and Aly, and I would also like to thank everyone who donated when I was busking this year.   I managed to raise £165.40 for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.”

To complete what turned out to be a fantastic evening Phil offered Jamie a free accordion lesson on zoom.   He can’t wait.