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Det Kongelige Teater
Alexandrinsky Theatre
The National Theatre of Scotland
Národní Divadlo

The National Theatre of Scotland

Dates: 23 / 11 - 24 / 11 / 11

The National Theatre of Scotland was established in 2002 and officially inaugurated in 2006. Before the opening of the National Theatre Wales in 2009, it was the youngest national theatre in Europe. Today, it stands out carrying out its mission as an avant-garde public theatre worthy of the 21st century.

The theatre’s unique form was heavily influenced by the circumstances under which it was established. Until recently, Scotland’s theatre legacy in contrast to its vast literary tradition, remained somewhat limited. The country’s two main theatre venues – The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh established in 1883 and the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow established in 1943 – functioned as the mainstays of British theatre in Scotland rather than the centers of ‘Scottish theatre.’ This began to change with the arrival of John Peter McGrath and his politically and artistically independent, avant-garde group 7:84 (established in 1971).

In 1999, the first democratic parliamentary elections formed the catalyst to establishing the National Theatre of Scotland. A year later, the country’s most renowned theatre artists gathered in Glasgow to discuss the form and spirit of the future institution that might successfully oppose the dominance of the British theatre in Scotland and become a Scottish counterpart to the Royal National Theatre in London. From the beginning, the notion of creating a traditional theatre house able to accommodate large-scale productions of e.g. Macbeth was discarded – there would be no Shakespeare it its repertory, and the theatre would not have a permanent home.

This radical concept – the National Theatre of Scotland eventually to become the only such institution in Europe – was motivated by a number of practical reasons: firstly, the willingness to escape rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh as to where the theatre should be located; secondly, the reluctance to invest large funds in a new building when two other prominent houses were already operating (The Royal Lyceum Theatre and the Citizens Theatre); thirdly, scarce public funding largely consumed by the expensive 1994-2004 construction of the new seat of the Scottish Parliament.

Today, the National Theatre of Scotland owns only a dozen or so spaces in Glasgow that house its offices and rehearsal studios. With no permanent stage or company, the theatre performs in varying locations and cooperates with cultural institutions across Scotland. Most of its works are designed both for typical theatre stages and site-specific performances (for example on a ferry en route between the Shetland Islands and Aberdeen). This mobility became one of the theatre’s trademarks and testimony to the unique understanding of its mission as national institution (i.e. to take theatre all over Scotland). It also proved economically advantageous – theatre’s operating costs are relatively low and its annual budget provided by the Scottish Government and ticket sales, can largely be invested in new production and other valuable artistic projects.

The first artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland became Vicky Featherstone, a young British director and former artistic director (1997-2004) of Paines Plough, London-based theatre company. The Board’s move was a provocation aimed at the conservative part of the Scottish society, however, more important than Featherstone’s descent were her high achievements in theatre – in the 1990s, Paines Plough gathered a number of outstanding young directors and playwrights, who, in the their theatre making and artistic approach, fiercely contested the dominant, mainstream culture (e.g. Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill).

Other significant names in the new team at the National Theatre Of Scotland were: Neill Murray, executive producer, John Tiffany, director, and playwrights David Greig and David Harrower. Such a choice of collaborators signaled that the group’s artistic goal was to seek a compromise between the national and avant-garde theatre. To the surprise of many, this risky attempt quickly proved successful both in terms of artistic achievements and commercial success.

The theatre officially opened on February 26, 2006 with a single performance of Home taking place simultaneously in ten different locations across Scotland: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Stornoway, Dumfries, East Lothian, Dundee, Caithness, Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands. Home was created in cooperation with theatre companies invited to participate in the project, its unique form being a reference to the medieval Scottish custom of lighting signal fires on mountain tops.

Among the most important productions at the National Theatre of Scotland are: Gregory Burke’s Black Watch directed by Tiffany (2006); Harrower’s adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart directed by Vicky Featerhstone (2006); David Greig’s adaptation of Euripides’ The Bacchae directed by Tiffany (2007). Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt directed by Colin Teevan (2007); Harrower’s adaptation of Luigi Pirandello’ Six Characters in Search of an Author directed by Mark Thomson (2008), Little Otik based on the film by Jan Svankmajer directed by Gill Robertson (2008). Peter Pan after novel by James M. Barrie directed by Tiffany (2010), Alistair Beaton’s Caledonia directed by Anthony Neilson (2010), Greig’s Dunsinane directed by Roxana Silbert (2011) and The Wheel directed by Featherstone (2011). Also, The National Theater of Scotland conducts an education program, Staging the Nation: A Conversation About Theatre.

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This project is supported by the Ministry of Culture
and National Heritage and The City of Warsaw
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