Four actors in the National Theatre of Scotland, Dragon, 2015. Photo by Peter Dibdinmendres
National Theatre of Scotland, Dragon, 2015 ©

Peter Dibdinmedres

Caroline Newhall, Director of Artistic Development of the National Theatre of Scotland, discusses the collaboration residency with Théâtre Petit-à-Petit in Montreal for the creation and production of a new theatre play.

Tell us about your collaboration project with the Montreal theatre company and how it originated: 

The project A Place to Stand originated in 2013, one year prior to the Scottish Independence Referendum when the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland, travelled to Montreal and Barcelona. There, he investigated the interest of local artists in a potential new collaboration between artists in Scotland, Québec and Catalonia. 

This resulted in a partnership between the National Theatre of Scotland, HÔTEL-MOTEL and Theatre Petit-à-Petit in Montreal, with the ambition to involve artists from other countries seeking independence. 

In September 2014, the National Theatre of Scotland hosted two artists from Québec and two from Catalonia to participate in initial discussions and workshops in Glasgow with four Scottish-based artists. The participants had a diverse set of skills and backgrounds, working across a range of mediums in addition to each having experience writing for theatre. Following this phase, it was decided that the future collaborative project would be lead led by the British and Québécois artists, and companies. 

In August 2015, Scottish artists travelled to Québec, and in December 2015, Québécois artists will come to Scotland to continue to collaborate, with a view to create a new piece of theatre, involving artists from both centres, for audiences in each country. 

Do you find similarities between Scotland and Quebec’s strive for independence? 

Both Québec and Scotland have experienced a growth of defined and long-lived Separatist/Sovereignty movements, campaigning for independence from their central government. This phenomenon has appeared in a number of countries with greater prevalence in recent years. The experiences of Québec and Scotland, however, are near unique in the recent history of western democracies, in that they have now both progressed through official referendums. 

This shared experience of sub-state nationalism, political campaigns and individual self-reflection, hints at commonality, despite the differences in language, culture and location. We believe that this provides a fertile ground for international artistic collaboration, as both an exploration of cultural similarities and difference. Through this we hope to develop a truly international piece of work, which centres on ideas of Identity – political, cultural and personal. 

How does a cultural exchange with Quebec impact your organisation? 

The financial and communication challenges of bringing together artists on either side of the Atlantic is raising interesting questions around how a resulting production can be artistically innovative both in its exploration of subject matter and multi-authors, but also how it can practically be made and shared with an international audience.

Tell us about the early beginnings of the National Theatre of Scotland: 

In its short life, the National Theatre of Scotland has already earned a significant national and international reputation for its daring and originality. The National Theatre of Scotland was established in 2006 and has created over 200 productions. Being a theatre without walls and building-free, the Company presents a wide variety of work that ranges from large-scale productions to projects tailored to the smallest performing spaces. In addition to conventional theatres, the Company has performed in airports, schools, tower blocks, community halls, ferries and forests. Its pieces have toured extensively across Scotland, the rest of the UK and worldwide. 

The National Theatre of Scotland creates much of its work in partnership with theatre-makers, companies, venues and participants across the globe. From extraordinary projects with schools and communities, to the ground-breaking online 5 Minute Theatre to immersive pieces such as David Greig’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, the National Theatre of Scotland’s aspiration is to tell the stories that need to be told and to take work to wherever audiences are to be found. 

Tell us about your latest projects: 

Earlier this year, we produced our first fully Gaelic drama, an adaptation of Compton MacKenzie’s novel Whisky Galore/Uisge-Beatha Gu Leòr.  Though the novel is set on a Gaelic speaking island, with all characters speaking Gaelic, the novel is written in English, so never before has a stage adaptation been created in the native tongue of the characters. 

Creating this new drama for both a small Gaelic speaking audience but larger non-Gaelic speaking audience was a challenge, but has set us in good stead for our explorations of how English and Quebecois French can work together for an international audience.

What is the latest theatre piece that made an impact on you?  

I recently attended Dragon, a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, Vox Motus and Tianjin Children’s Art Theatre China, remounted for the Edinburgh International Festival and Pixar‘s Inside Out.  Both pieces have had a lasting effect on me, coincidentally because they both explore the danger of repressed sadness, and isolation that grief can bring, but also because in their resolution they kept sadness close.  Both made me weep!