The opening of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month has inspired a welter of extra-curricular artistic activity.
One of the first out of the traps is Sports Day, a huge community show at the city's Citizens Theatre, which features a compendium of new short pieces penned by Scottish writers, including Peter Arnott, Linda McLean, Douglas Maxwell and Julia Taudevin, all based around a school sports day.
The scripts are accompanied by a series of new songs written by equally quoted songwriters and musicians, such as Vaselines vocalist Eugene Kelly, Sparrow and the Workshop's Jill O'Sullivan, John Kielty and Claire McKenzie. All this will be linked by a scenes featuring Joyce Falconer as the school's janitor.
Loading article content
For anyone studying the form, the stats are as follows. Sixty non-professional performers drawn from assorted Citizens-based community groups will perform some 17 new plays accompanied by 12 new songs. With only four weeks' rehearsal to play with, putting Sports Day together has been something of a Herculean task.
"It's a lot of stuff," says Guy Hollands, Citizens associate director, who oversees the theatre's learning community section, and is co-directing Sports Day with Neil Packham, the theatre's community drama director.
"It obviously started out as a response to the Commonwealth Games, but I also wanted an opportunity to bring together all of the different groups that already exist in the building, and to try and get them to inter-mingle somehow, rather than just going away after their classes.
"I originally wanted Sports Day to be a revue-style piece, so I sent emails to a lot of writers and asked them if they would be interested in writing a piece about a school sports day, which is something people tend to have fairly distinct memories of in one way or another.
"Everyone seemed to have a story about it, positively and negatively, and I was surprised to see what came back."
With assorted responses to Hollands's brief looking variously at preparations for the day as well as the races, a rough chronology developed, with teachers, parents and pupil athletes all in the frame. One play even looks at the plight of a family trying to raise money for a new pair of training shoes for their child to participate in the day.
"We wanted Sports Day to be largely celebratory," says Hollands, "and to celebrate the power of community spirit in sport. Douglas Maxwell's piece is a beautiful short play, and is probably the most hard-hitting of them all, but on the whole we wanted to keep things light."
Such a spirit of celebration will almost certainly be enlivened by the presence of Falconer, whose deadpan Doric tones are best known to viewers of River City from her long stint as Roisin Henderson. "We have worked with Joyce before," says Hollands, "and we knew she was right for this part. She is totally the right kind of person for the role."
While there will be some interaction between Falconer's janitor and a not entirely sympathetic head teacher, the majority of her scenes will see her on stage alone. An accomplished accordion player, Falconer will also take part in the show's musical interludes.
Initially, these were co-ordinated by MJ McCarthy, theatre composer and former member of the group Zoey Van Goey, and will be performed by the cast alongside a live band.
"One song was written especially for Joyce," says Hollands, "but it has been an interesting process, and I think we discovered writing a song perhaps needs more time invested in it than we originally thought. "For the artists who come from the indie world, it is a very different thing for them to be doing, because they have to be songs written to be sung in unison. All three of those songs have a unique take on things, and fit in well with the whole tone of the piece."
While rehearsals for Sports Day have been something of a logistical nightmare, with proceedings being scheduled around the performers' day jobs and other commitments, it has been the show's musical aspects that has united the company.
"It has really enjoyable to sing together," Hollands says, "and that all ties in with the explosion of community choirs. Working on Sports Day, I have seen how much you can bond through singing.
"That is the only time in rehearsals we have had the full company together, and that has become a really important part of the process. The mood in the room when everyone gets together like that is just electric."
If the music of Sports Day has acted as a unifying force, there is an even bigger message that comes from the theme of sport itself. "I believe in sport," says Hollands. "I think art and sport are very similar in lots of relative ways. There is an obvious sense of play in art and sport, but there are also similarities in terms of well-being and giving people the opportunity to achieve something, and to express themselves in some way."
Given how the performers in Sports Day have come from several different groups as well as the subject of the piece, one wonders whether any sense of competitive rivalry has crept into proceedings. Hollands, however, suggests teamwork has been paramount throughout rehearsals.
"We want to achieve the highest quality production we can," he says, "and for that to happen people have got to work together. A major part of Sports Day is about personal growth and personal expression, and for the Citizens' it is making an important statement about the value of community work, and where we place it in our portfolio."
Whatever the result of Sports Day, then, it is the taking part that counts.
Sports Day, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Wednesday to Saturday.