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Contemporary Scottish Theatre What is it all about?

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1 Contemporary Scottish Theatre What is it all about?

2 How long has there been a National Theatre of Scotland? Just 3 years … Why? What is the History of Scottish Theatre? Click on the logo to view and extract of Black Watch by Gregory Burke

3 … the history of a social institution with several sometimes conflicting traditions. It is a history which includes fairgrounds and pantomimes, club theatres and opera houses, fit-up companies and prestigious tours; which covers great writers and dramatic hacks; which encompasses periods of intense national pride in the stage and periods when any mention of Scottish drama was the cue for an embarrassed silence; periods when theatre in Scots or about Scotland only existed because of Englishmen or the efforts of amateur actors, and periods when Scotland had a vibrant, indigenous, professional theatre culture. Alasdair Cameron academic and critic

4 History Scotland banned theatrical performances in 1214 (medieval period) The Catholic Church was not a fan of drama – a mix of court performances, pagan-derived folk plays, biblical enactments and festive pageantry. Scotlands literary golden age of the Renaissance period bore its share of theatrical fruit, chief among it being Sir David Lyndsays Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, first performed before James V in This play was a farcical, satirical, and allegorical morality play.

5 Following the union, the Scottish court moved to London. All theatrical diversions were banned throughout the British Isles in 1640 in lead up to Civil War Parliamentary Union in Official hostility and economic incapacitation hampered theatre development in Scotland

6 A slow general rise in theatre-going among Britains leisured classes Allan Ramsays The Gentle Shepherd John Homes Douglas opened at the Canongate Theatre, Edinburgh, 14 th December 1756 David Hume summed up his admiration for Douglas by saying that his friend possessed "the true theatric genius of Shakespeare and Otway, refined from the unhappy barbarism of the one and licentiousness of the other."

7 Whaurs yer Wullie Shakespeare noo? The most famous piece of Scottish theatre criticism, immediate and succinct, came from a member of the audience swept away with enthusiasm for John Home's The Douglas. "Whaur's yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?" yelled the eager theatregoer. Shakespeare's plays have stood the test of time better than Home's verse tragedy, but in 18th-century Scotland the jury was still out. In keeping with the patriotic mood of the day, The Douglas told the story of Young Norval, a soldier in the Scottish army. When the secret nobility of his birth is revealed, he dies protecting the honour of his long-lost mother, who herself dies jumping off a castle tower. The audience loved its nationalist tone and many were moved to tears. There were those who disapproved of Home, a Church of Scotland minister, writing a play at all, but the public was in favour and it was the first sign that the religious censors were losing their grip. The critic of the Caledonian Mercury called it "one of the most perfect works of genius that any age has produced". Mark Fisher (Journalist)

8 Theatre Royal, Edinburgh The Theatre Royal was launched with a performance on 9 December 1767, an occasion commemorated in verse by James Boswell. The foundation stone of its new building was laid on 16 March Built in Shakespere Square, an area at the east end of Princes Street, the building was to be in use as a theatre for 90 years. During that time, the theatre was at the centre of some of the most important developments in Scottish cultural life. For the first 40 years of its life, the theatre made little impact. Two centuries of Kirk opposition to the theatre, in various degrees of severity, coupled with an intrusive government censor, imposed major limitations on what could be staged in Edinburgh.

9 The arrival of Sir Walter Scott transformed the situation. Scott was a patron and outspoken friend of the drama and his historical novels offered new possibilities for adaptation to the theatre. A play that was unambiguously about the modern political situation in Scotland would have been heavily censored, but a play based on a novel about the Jacobite risings could escape censorship on the grounds that it was just based on fiction. This allowed for the possibility of a national drama that could reflect on Scotland through the medium of literature.

10 Edinburgh's Theatre Royal at the start of the 19th century The Theatre Royal was extremely important in the revival of Scottish culture during the 19 th century, and is often associated with popular stage adaptations of novels by Sir Walter Scott, such as Rob Roy.

11 The first theatre in Glasgow was built in 1764 on the present day site of Central Station. But like many theatres it was burnt down by self-righteous mobs. Acting, especially for women, was considered scandalous and thespians often had to be escorted to and from the venues.

12 Rise of Popular Tradition In the 1800s, during the Glasgow Fair, small booths called 'Penny Geggies' staged short plays and launched careers for stars like Will Fyffe. Many permanent theatres, like the Britannia at 115 Trongate were reached by a stairway. It was bought by the eccentric A.E. Pickard and re-named the Panopticon - it is Glasgow's oldest remaining theatre.

13 The Britannia founded in 1857 The Britannia quickly became a popular place of amusement in the city and 1500 people would cram themselves onto wooden benches for every show. The audience gained itself a reputation for "leaving no turn unstoned" and over the years the stage saw performances by such greats as Dan Leno, Harry Lauder, Marie Loftus, Charles Coburn, Harry Champion, W. F. Frame and of course, the debut of a sixteen year old Stan Laurel in 1906.

14 Essay on popular entertainment Popular entertainment in nineteenth century Glasgow: background and context for The Waggle o the Kilt exhibition, by Alasdair Cameron Popular entertainment in nineteenth century Glasgow: background and context for The Waggle o the Kilt exhibition, by Alasdair Cameron

15 20 th Century Theatre Scottish drama was overshadowed by Londons centuries-old pre-eminence as a hub of the international theatre industry. Irelands theatre was more highly developed and provided a possible model

16 Chronology – The Main Bits Abbey Theatre founded in Dublin and seen as a possible model for a Scottish National theatre 1909 – Glasgow Repertory theatre founded Scottish plays being produced in London, English plays being produced in Scotland Click here for the full chronological development of 20 th Century Theatre in Scotland

17 1911 – J A Fergusons Campbell of Kilmohr 1921 – Scottish National Players 1926 – Scottish Community Drama Association (by 1937, it has over 1000 members. Amateur theatre predominates) 1933 – Curtain Theatre opened 1935 – Perth Theatre 1939 – Dundee Rep 1941 – Glasgow Unity theatre 1943 – Citizens Theatre 1947 – Men Should Weep (Unity)

18 1947 – SNP revived 1951 – Unity disbands 1955 – 1957 – Long running debate over the nature and future of Scottish theatre 1963 – Traverse Theatre opens Giles Havergal takes over Citizens 1973 – The Cheviot tour begins 1978 – The Slab boys 1981 – Scottish Theatre Company 1988 – Steamie premiers at Mayfest 1990 – Glasgow is European City of Culture

19 Current Situation Scotland achieved success through home-grown experiences and perspectives an indigenous voice, in language or performance style expansive cosmopolitan technique, subject-matter and artistic vision

20 Translations Playwrights - Liz Lochhead, Rona Munro, Edwin Morgan and Hector MacMillan Plays - Greek tragedy, Molière, Racine, Rostand, Chekhov, Dario Fo and Lorca (!) Commonplace combined with the epic Vigour of Scottish performance traditions Plays timeless concerns Connections with themes of Scottish theatre history.

21 Ambitious Successive currents in Scottish playwriting have seen the sustained and fruitful exploration of language, voice and variously politicised forms of self- definition which evolved from McGraths Cheviot.

22 Despite poor funding, Scotlands theatrical infrastructure, at both a physical and an organisational level, is generally well-developed and relatively extensive for the countrys size. Edinburgh (with the Royal Lyceum), Perth and Dundee form a strong core triumvirate of repertory theatre, Dundee in particular having built up an exceptional track-record since establishing its resident ensemble company – the sole such set-up in Scotland – in the late 1990s. Traverse Theatre nurtures Scottish-based talent – including such current stars as David Harrower, Gregory Burke and David Greig.

23 All of which underpins the widely-applauded decision to create the National Theatre of Scotland not as a venue- based or company-based operation, but exclusively as a commissioning body. With further support from the recently established Playwrights' Studio Scotland, the NTS will, according to former Scottish Arts Council Director James Boyle, draw on existing writing, acting, directing and technical talents within Scottish theatre and Scottish companies to provide a platform for Scottish drama, delivering high quality work, bringing resulting 'National Theatre of Scotland productions to existing venues around the country, increasing audiences in Scotland and achieving international recognition for Scotland and its artists. Its no modest set of ambitions, but Scottish theatre in its current state is collectively well placed to meet them.

24 Click on the link to see a trailer Black Watch by Gregory Burke The House of Barnarda Alba by Lorca translated into Scots by Rona Munro The House of Barnarda Alba by Lorca translated into Scots by Rona Munro

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