Sanctuary or ’A’Chomraich’ is the old Gaelic name for Applecross in Wester Ross. It was entirely appropriate as the title of the plan B’s first production since the piece was researched, created and rehearsed in this peninsula on the West coast of Scotland.
The show followed the life of a young girl, who having watched her father drown, loses the power of speech. As metaphor for Scotland the show wondered whether isolation was really a detachment from others or rather a detachment from oneself.
Drawing on a mixture of real local stories and imagined events and a wonderful set by Karen Tennent, the show was a surreal narrative of four interlinking stories which eventually met at the climax of the piece.
‘Sanctuary’ toured to many venues throughout the Highlands and the West Coast and was warmly received as well. It also played three weeks at the Traverse Theatre during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where one critic commented that, “McConnell’s company are worth seeing for the joy alone.”
Mr. Ob’s Cure
This piece was created over a very short period and was a trio for Frank McConnell, Christine Devaney and Paulene Laverty. Set to music by Hamish Moore it was an instinctive response to the then recently published Devlin Report about the state of dance in Britain.
Artistically speaking, it was the first major attempt by Frank McConnell to consider how the use of space choreographically might enhance the meaning of the dance’s content. ‘Mr. Ob’s Cure’ was performed at the Place Theatre in London as part of Dance Umbrella’s Baignolet Platform.
It was during the momentous events of 1990 when change was sweeping through Europe at an accelerated rate that plan B considered what effect these changes might have upon Scotland at both national and personal levels.
In developing these ideas during a research period at the old Traverse Theatre in the Grassmarket, it was suggested that we could turn the events on their head and consider if the momentum for the events had not been initiated in Scotland!
Chasing the Tale
The Ullapool project ‘Chasing the Tale’ initially examined the imaginary tale of how a woman from Ullapool, having fallen in love with a Polish fisherman from the Klondyke fleet, emigrates to Gdansk where she begins to organise the shipyard workers for strike action before setting up Solidarity.
‘Chasing the Tale’ became a wonderful celebration of the different groups from the village, including a String Quartet, young people rapping, Steve Kettley reading the news and playing the sax, a moving wall of fish boxes and a sky full of fish.
This project remains the only project undertaken by plan B that was a co-production, with Feis Tir a’ Mhurain (the Festival of the Land of the Marrin Grass).
Over a three week period Frank McConnell, Karen Tennent, Arthur Donald and Tracey Smith worked with a group of vibrant young people, all from the Middle District of South Uist. The result was the creation of an hilarious romp of a play told in the young people’s mother tongue, Gaelic, concerning the efforts of Ailean Amadan to leave the island of his birth without success.
‘Fagail Uibhist’ had two performances (in Benbecula and Stoneybridge) but attracted packed audiences on both nights. The material which was devised by the young people themselves was counter pointed with slide photographs showing the people of the island ‘Leaving Uist’ in the last set of mass emigrations in 1924 for a new life in Canada.
Love and Pocket Money
‘Love and Pocket Money’ began to develop as an idea shortly after the birth of Frank McConnell’s children and was an exploration on the notion of fatherhood. It was a theme that was to stay with Frank long after this show had finished and only found its true expression when Frank had completed his solo show, ‘One Road’.
The project, however, brought together the prodigious talents of Michael Marra (songwriter and musician), John Harvey (writer), Karen Tennent (design) as well as the company’s artistic director Frank McConnell (choreographer/performer). ‘Love and Pocket Money’ toured to venues throughout Scotland.
In May of 2000 Frank McConnell was awarded a Fellowship from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). In awarding the Fellowship, Nesta acknowledged that in allowing Frank the time and space to develop as an artist, plan B as a company would also be given the opportunity to develop over the next five years.