A guide to the best upcoming Scottish theatre talent
- Mark Fisher
- 6 November 2012
After graduating in 2006 with a degree in theatre directing, Douglas got an early break when he became a trainee director in residence with the National Theatre of Scotland. His production of Dennis Kelly’s children’s show Our Teacher’s a Troll for the NTS was raucous, funny and pretty scary to boot. Most recently, he stepped out from the wings to star in the Fringe First-winning Educating Ronnie for Stirling’s MacRobert, telling the true story of his fraught relationship with the Ugandan boy he befriended during a gap year.
You can’t fault Drummond for ambition. The Glasgow writer, performer, director and magician trained as a professional wrestler to prepare for Rob Drummond: Wresting, he took on the greatest story ever told in a version of The Passion staged in Glasgow’s George Square and he asked an audience member to fire a gun at him every night in the acclaimed Bullet Catch. In comparison, inventing a story every night in the CATS award-winning kids show Mr Write must have been a doddle.
The writer and performer turned heads with his monologue Hitch, the true story of an ill-prepared journey to the earthquake-hit town of L’Aquila to protest at a meeting of the G8 countries. Nominated for a CATS award in 2010, it was an early sign of an emerging generation of politically engaged theatremakers. The promise was fulfilled in 2012 with Beats, a DJ-accompanied evocation of the illegal rave scene of 1994 when loved-up dancers fell foul of the buttoned-up forces of authority. It duly won the CATS’ best new play gong.
Every day in 2007, MacAskill headed out with her ukulele to perform wherever she was made welcome. It was an exercise she called Eilidh’s Daily Ukulele Ceilidh, a title certified by top scientists as the best name for anything ever. As a lynchpin of Glasgow’s Fish & Game, MacAskill is typically found in a not-quite-definable realm of performance art. For the Arches Behaviour festival she created three events in praise of the bicycle. Different again was Alma Mater, an installation in which the spectator entered a child’s bedroom while carrying an iPad.
As the star of her own Love Letters to the Public Transport System, Taylor broke everyone’s heart with her stories of travelling by train and bus from Liverpool to London to Glasgow at significant emotional moments. The National Theatre of Scotland production was revived for a run on the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, where she also found time to appear in a verbatim theatre piece by Look Left Look Right. Taylor, who was part of the NTS’s Bank of Scotland Emerge programme, also appeared in the first production of Gary McNair’s Born to Run.
Another writer-performer-director with an appetite for political engagement, McNair worked as a company associate at the National Theatre of Scotland after graduating from the former RSAMD and now specialises in one-person shows on thought-provoking topics. In Crunch, he considered the nature of money, and in Count Me In, he picked apart the supposedly democratic voting system. On the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, he made Shauna Macdonald run on a treadmill for over an hour as she starred in Born to Run, his play about athletic endurance and need to escape. http://www.garymcnair.co.uk
Like many writers of her generation, the Cork-born and Glasgow-based Radley is often to be found performing in her own plays. She’s been spotted in The Art of Swimming, a monologue about her obsession with a cross-Channel swimmer, and in Birds and Other Things I am Afraid of …, a coming-of-age tale performed in a shed built on the altar of Glasgow’s Lansdowne Parish Church. Only in 2011 did she extend her range to other actors when Dominic Hill staged her freak-show themed Futureproof for the Traverse and Dundee Rep. www.lyndaradley.com
A writer-on-attachment for the National Theatre of Scotland, the Aberfoyle-born Smith is celebrated as the writer of Roadkill, Cora Bissett’s Olivier Award-winning site-specific drama about sex-trafficking. That harrowing play typifies her interest in politics and the importance of shining a light on hidden stories. She also works as a director, staging her own plays including 2012’s The Silence of Bees, a meditation on the declining bee population, performed in a Sauchiehall Street soap shop. www.stefsmith.co.uk
A specialist in object theatre for grown-ups as well as children, MacKay is a driving force in the Edinburgh-based Tortoise in a Nutshell. Established in 2007, the company got people talking with 2010’s The Last Miner, a moving show about an old man sifting through the memories of the dilapidated mine where he once worked. MacKay and the team went on to considerable success on the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe with Grit, a vision of children in war zones, conjured up through imaginative use of lots of cardboard and an overhead projector.
Following her free-flowing creative instincts, the Inverness-born Watt is variously a director, a performer and a live artist. She was assistant director on the National Theatre of Scotland’s 27 and is creative administrator for Lung Ha’s, but she is becoming best known for her solo pieces, not least the 2012 Fringe First-winning Flâneurs, a subtle polemic in favour of the right to roam our city streets without fear. To give you an idea of her range, she was previously best known for a performance in which she smashed apples with a baseball bat. http://www.jennawatt.co.uk/
A new piece of interactive theatre from Adrian Howells (who notably performed a one-on-one theatre piece at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 which involved him tenderly bathing the audience member and feeding them chocolates), exploring our relationship to water and swimming in intimate fashion.
Two one-act plays: Flâneurs by Jenna Watt explores violence in public places while in We Will Mend on the Highways Joanna Brown attempts to find peace in unfinished journeys in life.