Pitlochry Festival Theatre, nestled in the geographical heart of Scotland, is of increasing cultural importance to the local area. Nowhere else in the UK can you experience a large resident ensemble of actors performing multiple roles in multiple shows, musicals, comedies and dramas six days a week. The PFT was conceived way back in the 1940’s by John Stewart, a leading promoter of amateur dramatics in Glasgow. It opened its doors to the public on the 19th May 1951, as a tent style theatre modelled after the one in London Regents Park. The theatre has undergone many changes since then, including a brand new theatre building. A £25 million makeover is set to be completed just in time for the theatres 70th anniversary in 2021.
Something that has remained constant during the theatres 70 years is the breadth, depth and quality of its summer season. Audiences visiting the Theatre in the Hills have come to expect shows that are joyful, entertaining, reflective, ambitious and diverse. The summer session is such a success, in fact, that it now attracts in excess of 100,000 people each year, including Scottish residents and holidaying culture vultures from abroad.
It’s lovely that when I go back, there are still the same people living there who were there when I was born. There’s a real sense of community that I think is pretty specialOne of the people it has managed to attract, or rather attract back, is the actress Camrie Palmer, a Perthshire lass who grow up in Abernyte before achieving her dream of getting into drama school in Manchester. Camrie speaks fondly of her Perthshire childhood: “I loved growing up in the countryside. It’s lovely that when I go back, there are still the same people living there who were there when I was born. There’s a real sense of community that I think is pretty special”. The only downside to living in Abernyte was not having a driving license. “I remember being a teenager and finding it rather annoying that the nearest bus stop was three miles away!“
Camrie graduated from drama school in 2015 before joining the Citizens Theatre Company under their actor internship scheme. Now living in Glasgow she has starred in productions of ‘Blackbird’, ‘Rapunzel’ and an arresting adaptation of Scottish literary giant Alasdair Gray’s novel ‘Lanark’. In Christmas of 2016, she had an absolute ball returning to Perthshire as part of the cast of Dick McWhittington (review here). Just two short years later she is overjoyed to be once again returning to her roots, succeeding in a series of highly competitive auditions to secure roles in three productions at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.
Hearing all about Pitlochry Festival Theatre growing up, Camrie set her sights on joining the Season ensemble and sampling the thrills and challenges of rehearsing and performing in three different productions at once. Carrie told us a little about her role in the quirky comedy-drama ‘Travesties’. “I play Gwendolen, a character lifted from Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Ernest. It’s a costume drama but every scene is completely different to the one before. From a scene made up entirely of limericks to a love scene that is a hybrid of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde”.
Camrie is also an accomplished singer, a talent which she utilises during ‘Travesties’. “There is a music hall version of the tea scene from ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. Deftly written, as you’d expect from Tom Stoppard, it features plenty of wordplay and literary references to keep the audience on their toes. However, it also has heart, “It is a humorous and accessible story of an ageing man retelling his some of the most exciting years of his life.”
The Perthshire born actress will get another chance to try her hand at costume drama in J.M. Barrie’s Austenesque period piece ‘Quality Street’. “It’s a is a play about two sisters during the Regency era and how they navigate single life. I’ll be playing Susan, the older sister who has long since accepted her destiny to be an ‘old maid’. However, she remains a hopeless romantic and has dreams of her beautiful younger sister, Phoebe, having the kind of romance she can only dream. She is such a joy to play: So kind-hearted and childlike in her hopeful outlook but depending heavily on her younger sister to be the ‘Lion-hearted’ one.”
The PFT’s summer season is already well underway and it’s running until October, giving you plenty of time to check out all six of the plays on offer. The theatre also runs a year-round programme of tours, talks, concerts, events, music and workshops. It makes a perfect day or nights entertainment or a destination for a superb short break.
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