The Panopticon – A National Theatre of Scotland Production
Written by Jenni Fagan, directed by Debbie Hannan
The Panopticon is at Easterhouse Platform, Glasgow, 4th October, and then at The Traverse, Edinburgh, 11th – 19th October.
Paul Tinto, who was born in Arran and grew up in Lamlash, told the Voice about his new play, The Panopticon, a stage adaptation of the novel (of the same name) by Jenni Fagan.
The Panopticon follows the story of Anais, a fifteen year old girl who has spent her entire life in the social work/care system, whether it be foster or institutional care. We meet her as she’s being moved to yet another child care unit, in an old Panopticon building, twelve weeks before she turns 16, at which age she is free to leave and finally be free of a care system that has failed her, her whole life.
Panopticon buildings were originally a design of prisons, built in a circular formation with a central tower, where the guards could observe the prison cells at all times, while the prisoners couldn’t tell if and when they were being watched. Surveillance is a huge theme in the story, not just the idea that we are constantly being watched, but that we are being watched and controlled in order to keep us where society and the system wants us.
I play the character of Angus, a support worker at the Panopticon, who has a damaged past of his own, and who recognises the potential, and perhaps something of himself, in Anais. While the police and authorities try and pin serious convictions on her, Angus is willing to fight against the system in order to see Anais free from it all and have a chance at a second life.
It’s a brilliant, extremely powerful and, at times, heart wrenching story that, at its core, highlights how society, and the structures in place, not only influence how we perceive people in the care system, but how difficult it is to become free of those structures of institutionalisation the longer you are in them. Anais is striving to take control of her own life and be something more than a victim of the circumstances she was born into, in a world where the system is designed to keep us where we are with the labels we are given.
We are currently in our last week of rehearsal and have moved out of the NTS space and into the Easterhouse Platform in Glasgow, where we have our first preview this Friday, before moving everything over to The Traverse in Edinburgh on 11th.
The set and production design is very complex in many ways, with a lot moving parts (literally!) so there is still a bit of work to be a done but everyone involved, the cast, creative team and crew are all terrific so I’m sure it will all come together in good time and be a show that connects emotionally with people, regardless of whether or not you have experience in the care structure.
It’s been a terrific piece to work on and it’s been interesting and eye opening learning more about a system in which I was previously very uneducated. The story shines a light on an area of our society so often misrepresented or ignored and so it deserves to be brought to as wide an audience as possible, and the issues it tackles to be brought to the forefront of discussion. For that reason, I’m extremely proud to be a part of it.
A National Theatre of Scotland Production – Written by Jenni Fagan, directed by Debbie Hannan
The Panopticon is at Easterhouse Platform, Glasgow, for one night on 4th October, and then at The Traverse, Edinburgh, from 11th – 19th October.
For more information and to book tickets see the National Theatre website.
A special thanks to Paul for taking the time to write about his new play for the Voice, and to The National Theatre of Scotland for the images. All rehearsal photo credits to Jassy Earl.