Review: Scenes For Survival - Dreaming of Edinburgh, National Theatre of Scotland

“Edinburgh is the most erotic city in the world.” There’s a conversation starter for you. A young woman in Victorian Edinburgh stares out her window and indulges with her own carnal fantasies in the latest Scenes for Survival film, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS.)

Dreaming of Edinburgh is an extract from Peter Arnott’s play The Breathing House, which was first performed at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre in 2003. The play weaves through the polished yet sordid streets of the 19th century Scottish capital, moving beyond the beautiful façade to unearth sexual misconducts, drug exploitations and class warfare. With this new and brief revival, Arnott hopes that is speaks of confinement and makes sense within the context of lockdown.

Flashing images of old Edinburgh are paired with dramatic, mischievous melodies; it’s quite an exciting opening. Directed by Stasi Schaeffer, Molly Vevers underplays the text, working with intimacy, treating the camera like her confidante. Arnott’s text feels dangerous, almost secretive, so much so that it could afford to be taken at a slightly slower pace. Vevers excitement and quiet desire is lovely, but each image or moment doesn’t really get the chance to land or be processed by the viewer in all its glory.

However, there is something relatable about this piece. Imagining the aristocrats of George Street naked, envisioning all the antics taking place in the bushes, the character exposes her deepest, most honest and mischievous desires. Asking “Isn’t that what everyone is thinking when they’re looking out the windows?” reminds one of Fleabag – we’re all human, we all have those kinds of thoughts and we all need escapism. In relation to lockdown, most people will be dreaming of a world elsewhere, imagining what we could be doing in an alternate universe and it’s in the world of daydreaming that this piece strikes a chord.

In addition to the weekly content, it’s worth mentioning that NTS have set up the Scenes for Survival Hardship Fund. With the aim of fundraising alongside the broadcasted scenes, all donations to the fund goes directly to those who have endured emotional and financial hardship, as a result of the pandemic. If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so on the NTS website.

Dreaming of Edinburgh unites the world in confinement through the power of fantasy and daydream, taking us on a brief but fun journey. Although it would’ve been nice to see more of Edinburgh on screen, the images of transformation between the past and present are astonishing and reminiscent. The world continues to evolve, but we will always dream.

Dreaming of Edinburgh can be viewed on the National Theatre of Scotland’s website.