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Profile: Sandy Thomson

Artistic director, Poorboy theatre company

Sandy's journey to Poorboy

After training at RADA, touring Scotland and Wales as stage manager and technician and working for Dundee City Council, Sandy joined Angus Council as arts officer. 

It was here that she directed her first promenade in 1996 - 'The Deil's Reel' by Jan Natansun.  It took place in the actual church in which a minister had preached in 1600 against women who were thought to be witches.  This was her first taste of crowd control, as 390 people turned up to the unticketed event! Sandy Thomson; Photo: courtesy Poorboy

She rather liked this type of theatre and her next site-specific extravaganza took place in a place where she had dreamed of putting on a play since she was 11 - the Signal Tower museum in Arbroath.  It involved a community cast of 40, five writers, swordfights, original score and no rain!  This is a favourite site of hers and created a beautiful setting as part of the set was the tide coming up the beach. She feels that the play completely changed the way people perceive the signal tower.  It also encouraged people to come along who would never have dreamt of watching conventional theatre.  These are two of the main reasons why she enjoys site-specific and promenade work so much.

Bitten by the bug, Sandy decided to set up her own company with Jacqui Skelton as a board member, co founder and on-site producer.  They had together run The Last Gasp Youth Theatre in Arbroath and  had written, produced and directed together for several years.

Their first show with an all professional cast, 'Learning the Rules of Chinese Whispers' by Jan Natansun, took place in St Andrews in July of 2004.  It led Poorboy to a CATS awards nomination for Best Production and Sandy for Best Director.  Since then they have been making great progress and Jacqui is now on board full time as the general manager and producer of the shows.

The ups and downs

Poorboy has a particular policy of not worrying about practicalities in the development stages of the shows.  This allows the writers and director to dream as large as they want to - placing no limitations on the vision.  The challenge is then to make this into a reality within practical and financial constraints.  Poorboy has always managed, but as the shows get bigger, so do the challenges and the more sites they have to negotiate with.  Jacqui suggests that it is more of a producer challenge, but Sandy has the background of stage management and production to be able to be as creative with the spaces and budget as she is with the actors.

So what makes it worth it?  Sandy finds reward in being able to convey the pictures in her head to an audience and changing the interpretation of a space in people's minds forever.  This type of theatre means that people are absolutely living the experience and all the emotions which accompany that. Falling; Photo: Courtesy Poorboy


Falling; Photo: Courtesy Poorboy

Poorboy's youth strand, RED, commits to bringing young people in touch with the work of a producing theatre company. It allows them access to a dynamic team of professional actors, writers and directors.

Through workshops with the Poorboys (and Poorgirls), children and young people will gain a real understanding and insight into the process of creating imaginative and original performances - be that through learning about acting, voice, physical theatre, lighting, effects, staging, mixing soundscapes, animation and video or creating installations.

It is hoped that the next successful workshop programme will run during the Easter holidays - visit Poorboy's website to keep up to date.

Promenade theatre
* Promenade
* Focus on The Arches
Related links
* Poorboy
* National Theatre of Scotland
* The Arches
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