'Documentary, 'makey-up' storytelling and new modes of writing for the Scottish stage

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While history has long been and remains a rich reservoir for topics for Scottish dramatists, only with the production of The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil did a tradition of documentary writing for the stage emerge in Scotland that has extended through the work of 7:84 and Wildcat, for example, and up to the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch and The Enquirer. This is not to suggest that this tradition has been a purely Scottish one. Clearly the rise of verbatim theatre within Anglophone cultures internationally has been a particular influence on contemporary practitioners in Scotland.Nonetheless, in Scotland, these practices have been distinguished by three characteristics. The first of these is in the generation of the content and focus of the productions, where theatre makers have employed the research methodologies of the historian, the ethnographer and the journalist. The second has been in a collaborative process of production where writing has been developed alongside a range of production crafts, rather than in isolation from them. This has relied on a specific approach to collaborative dramaturgy that has been shared with other forms of theatre making in contemporary Scotland. The third characteristic has been in the choice of sites of performance that create particular resonances between the spectators and the material.While these characteristics cannot be said to be uniquely Scottish, this paper argues that they constitute a distinctively Scottish approach to writing for the stage. Further, in their concern to produce forms of identifiably Scottish productions, they have placed theatre at the heart of national debates in Scotland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-36
JournalInternational Journal of Scottish Theatre and Screen
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Nov 2013


  • Contemporary British Theatre
  • Contemporary Scottish Theatre
  • documentary performance


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