News: Imaginate announces two new Scottish commissions for the 2022 Festival

17 November 2021

I Am Tiger and The Hope River Girls - credit Mihaela Bodlovic
I Am Tiger and The Hope River Girls - credit Mihaela Bodlovic

Imaginate has commissioned two new exciting theatre shows which will appear at the Festival in May 2022 and go on tour across Scotland. Both productions speak of the complex experiences children are dealing with and explore the theme of mental health and how to make sense of a confusing world. 

I am Tiger was written by Oliver Emanuel during his time as an Imaginate Accelerator artist, a programme which provided him with funding to research and develop a new piece of writing for young audiences. The play, produced by Perth Theatre, tells the story of a girl who is given a pet tiger by her parents following the death by suicide of her big brother. Heart-breaking, comic and thought-provoking, I Am Tiger is about trying to live with loss, how keeping wild animals at home will quickly increase your shopping bills, and why keeping silent is not always the best solution.

Speaking about the commission Oliver said: “I can’t wait to share this story. Over the last two years, we’ve seen a rise in poor mental health in our young people across the country and we don’t know how to talk about it. This silence is costing lives. When I set out to write this play, I wanted to open up a safe space in which we can talk about those things we are scared to talk about. I’m utterly delighted that Perth Theatre and Imaginate are offering this story to an audience. The Edinburgh International Children’s Festival is my favourite festival in the world and I’m honoured to be part of the programme this year.”

The second commission, The Hope River Girls, is a reconceived version for young audiences of groupwork’s multi award-winning 2019 debut, The Afflicted. Inspired by real events, the show tells the story of 24 schoolgirls in upstate New York who started behaving strangely and mirroring each other’s odd behaviour for no apparent reason. The show combines explosive choreography, video and text to examine how something as natural as teenage girls coming of age can become wholly un-natural and a subject of fascination and mistrust. 

Vicki Manderson and Finn den Hertog, co-directors of groupwork said: “When we made The Afflicted, we were drawn to the story for its examination of the public fascination with female bodies, group dynamics in young women and what behaviours we do or don’t consider “normal”. Now, as we revisit the story of the Hope River Girls amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and its associated mental health traumas, as well as important conversations around the treatment of women and girls, the story feels more vital than ever. We hope young audiences will connect with the schoolgirls’ grappling with coming of age, while being subjected to immense scrutiny and projected fear by the adult community around them. As a young Scottish theatre company interested in human behaviours, we are thrilled to make our first work for children and young people with the support of Imaginate who are experts in the field."

Both commissions will reach audiences beyond the Festival – I am Tiger will be shown in Perth Theatre while The Hope River Girls will be touring Scotland, including Glasgow, Stirling, St Andrews, Mull and Inverness.

The Festival’s full programme will be announced on 17 March 2022.


Note for editors:

  • Imaginate is the national organisation in Scotland, which promotes, develops and celebrates theatre and dance for children and young people. As well as supporting artists making high quality work for children with a year-round creative development programme, the organisation runs creative learning projects, artist residencies and a national tour of performances in schools. Imaginate produces the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival which showcases the best of children’s theatre and dance from around the world and is recognized as one of the best places for international programmers to see work of the very highest standard. For more information about Imaginate please visit  @ImaginateUK #EdChildrensFest
  • Oliver Emanuel is an internationally award-winning playwright based in Scotland. He has written over 30 plays for both stage and radio. His play Dragon was the first play for young people to be performed at the Edinburgh International Festival and won Best Show for Children at the UK Theatre Awards. Oliver is Reader of Playwriting at the University of St Andrews, an Associate Playwright at Playwrights' Studio, Scotland, and Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone's Library. His plays are published by Oberon Books.
  • Perth Theatre celebrated 120 years at the heart of cultural life in Perthshire in 2020. The restored and redeveloped venue features a fully restored Edwardian auditorium, a 200-capacity studio, dedicated community rooms, and spacious and welcoming public areas. As well as creating and touring its own productions, Perth Theatre collaborates with theatre companies and visiting artists to bring the best of local, national and international work to its audiences. Artistic Director, Lu Kemp is an award-winning theatre director and dramaturg with a distinctive reputation for her work in new writing, physical theatre and dance. Perth Theatre and sister venue, Perth Concert Hall, are managed by the creative organisation and registered charity, Horsecross Arts. 
  • Groupwork is an award-winning Scottish-based theatre company, founded by choreographer Vicki Manderson and director Finn den Hertog. Groupwork has an integrated, collaborative approach, creating work that sits at the intersection of dance, theatre and multimedia performance. They develop work through periods of research, experimentation and play, collaborating with a shifting roster of artists including performers, playwrights and designers. Groupwork are recipients of Scotsman Fringe First and Scottish Arts Club awards, and have collaborated with National Theatre of Scotland, National Theater Institute, The Work Room and ThickSkin.
  • Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit   Follow us @creativescots and
  • The Scottish Government’s Festivals EXPO Fund is supported by the Scottish Government through Creative Scotland. The Festivals Expo Fund was established in 2007 to help maintain the global competitive edge of Edinburgh’s Festivals and £19m was invested across the Edinburgh Festivals up until 2018. In that year the Festivals Expo Fund was extended to include Celtic Connections and Glasgow International. The Festivals Expo Fund is aimed at supporting: work by Scottish-based artists and arts companies; collaborative work between Scottish and international artists; and touring within or outwith Scotland of works presented as part of the Festivals.