Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Treading the boards

We talk to cast and crew of this year’s plays in European Languages and English Literature.

Theatre productions have long been a highlight of the social life of the University of Edinburgh.

As well as the various theatrical societies run by the Students’ Association, there are lots of opportunities to get involved in plays and performances as cast or crew, not least in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

Each year, many of our students put on plays in the language they’re studying, sometimes in collaboration with staff, visiting playwrights and writers-in-residence.

This year’s productions include the Spanish classic, 'Bodas de Sangre', Germany absurdist comedy, 'Das Leben', an adaptation of Roger Vitrac's 'Victor ou les Enfants au Pouvoir', and brand new play, 'Europa a Lampedusa', written by Italian Teaching Fellow, Carlo Pirozzi.

Engaging with text in a more practical way

Photo from a production of Our Country's Good
Our Country's Good was a joint production at Bedlam Theatre by the Edinburgh University Theatre Company and students of English Literature. Image © Louis Caro

Being involved in a play is an immersive way of learning, helping bring texts to life. As English Literature students Julia Weingaertner and Harriet Newcombe, who have co-produced 'Our Country's Good' at Bedlam Theatre, explain: “Having the opportunity to stage this year’s play provided an invaluable experience, as we were able to engage with the text in a more practical way.”

“Elements such as staging and characterisation, which cannot be fully appreciated through merely reading a play, were thoroughly explored through our production. Given current debates surrounding the pervasive nature of imperialist texts in curricula, we feel that our involvement in this production has not only enhanced our English Literature degrees, but has also given us a greater appreciation of the importance of literature, now more than ever.”

Photo of the cast and crew of the Spanish Play
The cast and crew of Bodas de Sangre on the opening night at Assembly Roxy. Image © Daniel Padden

Contributing creative ideas

“As a first year student of Italian and Politics, I could not have asked for a more fantastic experience than being a part of the Italian play”, says Anna Manford, who is currently involved in ‘Europa a Lampedusa’, an original work addressing issues such as myths, European identity, citizenship, and the current refugee crisis.

“Not only has it challenged my Italian but also, as a learning experience, it has been completely different to anything we do in class.”

The play brings together students of various European languages, as well as animators from Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Studio Opera, and members of the University’s Modern Dance Society.

Jonathan Weigl, a visiting Erasmus student from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, says: “I chose to take part to practice my Italian. It has been so much fun! I've really enjoyed the rehearsals, we are encouraged to contribute our own creative ideas and we always have a laugh. It has been my first time acting and I really recommend others to give it a go!”

Learning about context

Yasmin Murray is nearing the end of her degree in Spanish and History. Having previously acted in the annual Spanish Play, she has this year had the added experience of directing the play at Assembly Roxy.

She says: “Bodas de Sangre is one of the most popular Spanish plays of all time so directing it comes with a lot of pressure, but it has been a great way to find out the pronunciation of some words which we didn’t know before and to learn culturally about the context of the play, 1920s rural Spain."

"Our producer Tessa (a second year student of Spanish and Portuguese) has worked non-stop providing help with props, organising rehearsal spaces, liaising with the theatre (and so much more). Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience. I’ve learned many skills which I would otherwise have lacked and am considering potentially teaching/directing in the future as a result!”

Building community

“The German Play is a great way to improve your language skills by meeting both native speakers and other students of German”, says Megan Ure, a second year student of Chinese and German.

“It’s also an opportunity to learn new skills such as producing, directing and costume design; this year I am both acting and part of the production team.”

The play is supported by the German Consulate, which holds a wine reception on the opening night, an opportunity which Megan says: “enables us to interact with Edinburgh’s German speaking community. [The play] also allows us, as students, to promote learning German in the greater Lothian area, as we invite schools to come and watch.”

“This has been a great creative outlet for me during my studies and allows me to keep up my German in a more relaxed setting”.

Are you interested in undergraduate study in LLC?

We offer one of the widest range of languages of any UK university, from Arabic to Norwegian, Scottish Gaelic to Japanese. Based in the first UNESCO City of Literature, we are also home to the oldest department of English Literature in the UK - one of the longest established in the world - and the oldest Celtic department in Scotland.

Find out more about undergraduate study with us