You Tell Us What Was We Tell You What Is

March 2009

Pilmuir Works, Dunfermline
National Theatre of Scotland Learn
Co-directed by Ben Harrison and Jemima Levick

Irene – You Tell Us What Was We Tell You What Is

"I wouldn’t say never work in a factory because factories are a job. Just get intae yer heid that you’re in there tae work, you’re not in there tae make friends.You are in there to actually work, and as long as you can work, you will do okay. You go in there, and you’re not willing to work, what’s the point in being there? It’s a job, I’m willing to do it, go in, do the job, and you’ll always find if you’re a hard worker, no matter what happens, you will get the recognition at the end, you will get the recognition that you’re due. Just because you worked. If you’re a worker, you will go places."

Created with 40 students from Woodmill High School in Dunfermline, with 25 in the performance company and 15 in the design and technical teams, this was a very ambitious meditation on the credit crunch and what it means to be 14 in Dunfermline today. Scripted from material from the students own lives, their musical tastes, their political and social opinions, this NTS Learn production took over the vast abandoned spaces of the Pilmuir Works, the site of the former and much-missed Dunlops Factory which closed in 2005. Reminiscences from former factory workers created a thread that connected the teenage material back to the site.

"Kyle: I only realized there was a credit crunch when Woolworths closed. Damn, that was a good shop.
Aimee: To start with I thought the credit crunch was like folks munching their credit cards…&quot

The production animated the vast ground level of the warehouse, some 500 square metres of space, various storage areas and the ballroom on the first floor, former place of workers’ parties, a breath of relaxation and life in the midst of the tyranny of factory labour.

The Dunlop’s Song

"”Our work is quite heavy and dirty you see
We don’t get much money
Between you and me
But if you buy British
As much as you can
We won’t need those rubbishy
Tyres from Japan Tooraloo, Tooralee, it’s
Dunlops for ever and good quality”"

The project was Ben’s first working with teenagers since the 2002 Almeida Theatre production Caledonian Road. Co-directed with Jemima Levick, with a score by Philip Pinsky, dynamic choreography from Fleur Darkin and stunning installation design by Becky Minto, the piece was a true celebration of the much-misunderstood contemporary teenage voice. The piece opened up a space for imagining a future far from the industrial origins of the town’s workforce but considered the idea of the work ethic in our globalised contemporary situation.