During lockdown of 2020, with the theatre unable to open, Tron Participation had to look for new and different ways to engage with audiences.  Thanks to funding from the Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund (PAVRF) administered by Creative Scotland, we were able to develop a project that allowed us to take the Tron out to communities in a safe and socially distanced way. 

Suitcase Stories saw three teams of freelance artists create professional mini street theatre experiences which were performed from a suitcase as pop-up events performed at the end of garden paths, in flat stairwells and on doorsteps.  

We worked with three lead artists, Fiona Manson, The Audio Story Company and Diane Thorton, to develop and realise their ideas with support from dedicated teams of freelance creatives. The resulting Suitcase Stories – Front Row Cargo, The Happiness Collectors and Are Ye Dancin’? brought the magic of live performance to households across Glasgow in 2020 and 2021. All three Suitcase Stories were produced by Jordan Blackwood.

Although the Suitcase Stories project has now concluded, Tron Theatre has been delighted to see these artists take their pop-up pieces out on the road, and for the works developed as part of our PAVRF programme to have another life.  The Audio Story Company further developed Happiness Collectors and it has subsequently entertained families across Scotland at a range of events, in schools, at festivals and in shopping centres. The project recently received funding from Creative Scotland to support a Scotland-wide tour.  Are Ye Dancin‘? was presented at Imaginate Family Encounters in June 2022, at Glasgow’s most recent Merchant City Festival, and will embark on a tour of care homes in Autumn 2022.

Find out more about each of the three PAVRF project Suitcase Stories below:

Our first Suitcase Story, FRONT ROW CARGO by Fiona Manson delivered all it’s parcels, and popped up at close doors, on front paths, in gardens and on drying greens across the city in December 2020. Fiona collaborated on this project with Valerie Reid – Designer and Sita Pieraccini, with stage management provided by Avalon Hernandez.

Front Row Cargo was a brand-new idea conceived specifically for Suitcase Stories by actor/maker Fiona Manson. It was led by Fiona’s skill in theatrical clowning and Valerie Reid’s strong, detailed and charming design. The main inspirations for the piece were the tradition of neighbourhood carol singers and the rise in profile of the online shopping delivery van (which became a life-line for people during lockdown). With very little text and full of fun, slapstick performance, the piece explored the relationship between a delivery driver and the present they were responsible for delivering.

Front Row Cargo aimed to make the everyday funny and magical, and with performances scheduled for the month of December, the idea of a special parcel delivery was perfect for that time of year. It was fun for all ages and devised with special consideration for family audiences watching from their doorstep.

Our second Suitcase Story was called ARE YE DANCIN’, created and performed by Diane Thornton. Working with Diane on this project were Fergus Dunnet – Designer, Ruth Mills – Choreographer and Suzie Ferguson – Supporting Artist and Outside Eye. Stage management was provided by Suzanne Goldberg.

Are Ye Dancin’? is a solo performance inspired by Glasgow’s iconic dance-halls and by Diane’s great gran, who used to go dancing in Barrhead and travel back home to Nitshill on the early morning milk float, silver shoes in hand.

A wee woman looks like she’s flitting, weighed down by suitcase and bags. She’s looking for something she might recognise, for someone to navigate the world with. When she sees the audience, she recognises them as fabulous people ready to party. The wee woman needs to get her glad rags on for the party and she’s nowhere near ready.  Slapstick getting- ready routines are interrupted with flashes of the dance steps.  The woman invites the audience to be her dance partners. ‘Are ye dancin’?’

The style of the performance is a nod to Glasgow’s music hall heritage with crowd-pleasing physical comedy and great tunes.

THE HAPPINESS COLLECTORS by The Audio Story Company is an immersive and interactive audio adventure for those aged four and over. The Audio Story Company are actor, voice-over artist and drama facilitator Sarah Miele and sound designer and composer Calum Paterson. Fergus Dunnet worked with The Audio Story Company as Designer, Sarah Rose Graber worked with the team as Supporting Artist and Judy Stewart was Stage Manager on the project.

The Audio Story Company was created during lockdown when artists Sarah Miele and Calum Paterson began creating audio stories to share with their nieces.  Using Calum’s skills in sound design and production and Sarah’s skills in theatre-making and performance they successfully pitched to become one of our Suitcase Stories artists and The Happiness Collectors was born.

The Happiness Collectors is a fusion of physical theatre and audio-immersive storytelling for family audiences. Each audience member experiences the show through a set of wireless headphones, guided by their very own Happiness Collector Instructor, SAM, aka Special Agent M.  As the audience learn how to become fully certified Happiness Collectors, they are transported by sound and music to destinations around the world and invited to complete a series of fun, physical tasks to collect some much-needed happiness. The Happiness Collectors aims to bring people and communities together through the promotion of joy, well-being and the sharing of collective experience.

Suitcase Stories was delivered with support from the Scottish Government’s Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund, administered by Creative Scotland.

Illustration by Jamie Macdonald