National Theatre of Scotland teams up with Danny Boyle for Pages of the Sea

Theatre Preview: Pages of the Sea

Six Scottish beaches join director Danny Boyle's public art remembrance of Armistice

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018, guns fell silent across Europe. The First World War (or the 'Great War', due to the magnitude of the conflict) had come to an end, and with it four years of slaughter which took the lives of brave young soldiers across Europe, all sacrificed on an industrial level by their leaders. With no-one who experienced the horror left to tell us what it was like, it's up to the generations alive right now to find our own ways of paying tribute, and of agreeing that something similar must never happen again.

No stranger to a large-scale act of communal public art, following his opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, Danny Boyle has devised Pages of the Sea, a countrywide act of remembrance which will occur on 30 beaches across the United Kingdom and Ireland on Armistice Day, Sunday the 11th of November. Six beaches in Scotland will be used, with the events leading up to and on the day organised by the National Theatre of Scotland.

'Beaches are democratic, unruly spaces where people can gather,' says Simon Sharkey of the National Theatre of Scotland. 'This is a complementary activity to the more formal events around cenotaphs and the laying of poppies, where people don't just go and remember and connect as a community, but can also have a very personal experience.' Sand artists Sand in Your Eye have designed a portrait of a local person who lost their life in the war, which will be cast into the sand on a large scale and washed away as the tide comes in.

At the same time, members of the public can scratch their own stencil portraits into the sand, whether it be of a local soldier, nurse or munitions workers, or anyone else who served and sacrificed during the war; and a specially commissioned poem by Carol Ann Duffy has been written, which can be read or sung by individuals or groups of people. Sharkey describes the beaches chosen as 'a nice halo over Scotland', picked for their accessibility and the relevance of many of these areas to the soldiers of the war; St Andrews beach, for example, is very close to the Black Watch country of Perthshire.

The precise timings of each event is tide-dependant, with more detailed information on the website. 'These are places for anybody to turn up and participate if they want, or just to witness,' says Sharkey. 'There is an energy on a beach, with the waves coming in to take the portraits away, and the aim is to give a sense of marking time, and of communities marking it together.

'I picked up one story while we were doing this, of a mother who lost her four sons during the war, and of the woman who lives in her house now. This woman walks her local beach every morning, and when she learned of this family, she couldn't but feel the presence of that mother looking out to the horizon and wondering where her sons were buried. We live on an island, and it feels entirely appropriate to look out to all of these horizons and think about the lives that were lost far from home, and the lives that were affected back home because of this loss.'

Danny Boyle invites you to mark 100 years since Armistice. On 11 November 2018, communities will gather on beaches across the UK to say goodbye to the lives lost in the First World War.

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More arts events which commemorate Armistice Day across Scotland.

Celtic Sessions: No Man's Land
Songs and stories which explore the First World War, with folk, jazz and classical works from guests Karine Polwart, Blue Rose Code, Raghu Dixit, Kris Drever, Eska and Declan O'Rourke.
Perth Concert Hall, Sun 11 Nov.

Far, Far from Ypres
A fictionalised account of the trenches experience which has played in the past at Celtic Connections and featured some notable names in folk music, this large-scale concert features song and poetry.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sun 11 Nov.

Iolaire
On the 1st of January 2019, the ship Iolaire crashed and its passengers and crew were lost – the boat had been returning the young soldiers of Lewis and Harris back to their families after the war. Commemoration events this weekend include the exhibition Bho Mhoch Gu Dubh: Dawn to Dark (ongoing) and An Treas Suaile, two suites of Gaelic music by Julie Fowlis and Duncan Chisholm (Fri 9 and Sat 10 Nov).
An Lanntair, Stornoway.

I Say Nothing by Christine Borland
Scot and sometime Turner Prize nominee Borland has created an exhibition using objects related to the First World War from the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre collection, including lucky charms, a shrapnel-filled book of French grammar and an invalid's feeding cup.
Kelvingrove, Glasgow, ongoing.

Oh! What a Lovely War
Joan Littlewood's satirical stage musical from 1961 – which challenged British assumptions about the First World War and became a hit ensemble film eight years later – is restaged here by Captivate Theatre.
The Studio at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sun 11 Nov.

They Shall Not Grow Old
Directed and produced by The Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson, this documentary film uses modern technology to recolour and update WWI footage, to bring the scenes – and particularly the people who fought in it – to vivid life once more.
Various cinemas across Scotland, various times.

Pages of the Sea is on Sun 11 Nov at St Ninian's Isle beach; West Sands, St. Andrews; Scapa beach, Orkney; Ayr beach; Burghead Bay beach, Moray Firth; and Cula Bay beach, Benbecula. Times vary. It's part of 14-18 NOW and is co-produced in Scotland by the National Theatre of Scotland.

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