Theatres team up to support local playwrights

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Perth Theatre has teamed up with Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Birnam Arts, Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland and local playwright Lesley Wilson to launch Perthshire Plays, an intensive 2-year programme to support new and existing playwrights from across Perth and Kinross.

Perthshire Plays launched on Monday 27 January in Perth Theatre, as 11 playwrights, chosen through an open selection process, met with Lesley Wilson for the first of a series of regular Playwriting Group meetings. They heard the story of James Croll, a Perthshire man who is credited as being the world’s first climate change scientist from Mike Robinson, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society – a prompt for new pieces of writing telling positive stories around climate change.


The Playwriting Group will give participants the tools to write a play, improve their writing skills, and increase their confidence in a supportive environment.

Participants will receive script-in-progress feedback from Lu Kemp, artistic director for Perth Theatre and Elizabeth Newman, artistic director for Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Writers' desks will be available for use free of charge at Perth Theatre, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Birnam Arts and Playwrights' Studio, Scotland.

Perthshire audiences will be able to get involved through a series of public events. This will include masterclasses led by some of Scotland’s most acclaimed playwrights and leading stars who have brought their work to life. The programme of events will include a series of lunchtime performances featuring work developed through the programme covering local issues ranging from Perthshire history to climate change.

We are looking forward to building a strong network of playwrights.

Lu Kemp said:

“We are thrilled to be launching Perthshire Plays in partnership with Playwrights’ Studio Scotland, Pitlochry Festival Theatre and Birnam Arts. We are looking forward to building a strong network of playwrights living outwith the Central Belt, and to supporting the development of their craft. We hope to bring fresh, entertaining writing to our audiences through lunchtime theatre events in Perth Theatre Café and Bar.”

Pitlochry Festival Theatre Associate Director, Caitlin Skinner said:

“At Pitlochry Festival Theatre we grow plants, plays and people and our Highland Perthshire home is rich with stories and storytellers who we want to nourish here at the theatre. That’s why we are so happy to be collaborating with our friends at Perth Theatre, Birnam Arts and Playwright’s Studio Scotland, to develop playwrights in Perthshire and to allow our audience the chance to hear those stories, fresh from local artists.”

Drew Campbell of Birnam Arts said:

"We're so pleased to be working with our colleagues at Perth Theatre and Pitlochry Festival Theatre as a part of this ground-breaking project. Theatre plays such a vital part in our national and local life, and we're particularly fortunate here in Perthshire to have a wealth of talent, history, and skilled professionals to draw upon.  Thanks to the Playwrights' Studio for their boldness in supporting this venture, the next couple of years will be an exciting prospect for Perthshire, playwrights, and anyone who cares about homegrown drama and theatre."

We're so pleased to be working with our colleagues at Perth Theatre and Pitlochry Festival Theatre as a part of this ground-breaking project.

Fiona Sturgeon Shea, creative director and chief executive of Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland said:

“As Scotland’s national playwright development organisation, we are dedicated to supporting playwrights in every part of the country. As a small team with big ambitions, we initiated this project to find partners who shared our vision of Scotland as ‘a place for playwrights.’ Birnam Arts, Perth Theatre and Pitlochry Festival Theatre proposed an exciting and collaborative programme that connects playwrights strongly with local audiences, venues and the inspiring landscape, places and spaces of the region. After a period of intense planning, we are delighted to unveil Perthshire Plays and its component parts.

This includes the eleven-strong group of playwrights who come from an exciting mix of creative backgrounds and are united in their commitment and infectious enthusiasm for writing new plays for the stage. Guided by the project’s Associate Playwright, Lesley Wilson, and with generous contributions from all of the partners, we look forward to working actively and creatively with them and sharing their playwriting journey!”

You can find more information on Perth Theatre, Pitlochry Festival Theatre and Birnam Arts in their Small City directory listings.

Meet the Team:

Benn Brown

Benn Brown is a Playwright born in Perth. His main interests lie somewhere in allegories and myth-building, morals, ethics and wondering what modern stories are to be made of. Like Benn, these stories are often touched by trauma and abuse, especially in childhood and betray a deep mistrust in what is known and a great value in what is discovered.

Currently working as a Front of House member at Perth Theatre, he has just completed a Masters in Playwriting at St Andrews University and is now in the process of a second Masters in Writing for Television at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Drew Campbell

Drew Campbell is a sometime poet, novelist and aspiring playwright. Presently working at Birnam Arts in Perthshire, he previously held writing residencies in Midlothian, East Lothian, and Argyll & Bute. From 2008-2014 he served on PEN International’s Committee for Imprisoned Writers, and was the elected President of Scottish PEN from 2010-16, where he remains board trustee.

Linda Cracknell

Linda Cracknell writes in different forms (fiction, non-fiction, drama), with a frequent starting point in landscape, sense of place, and characters at odds or in tune with where they are.

Her radio dramas include: The best snow for skiing, BBC Radio 4 Afternoon drama based on the life of Valda Trevlyn Grieve, Cornish wife of poet Hugh MacDiarmid; Until Such Times Adaptation of short story by Jessie Kesson for BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour drama; The Three Knots, BBC Radio 4 Afternoon drama; The Lamp, BBC Radio 4 Afternoon drama, December 2011. Selected as “Play of the Week”; for Radio 3 and 4.

Her non-fiction book about walking and memory, Doubling Back: Ten paths trodden in memory was published in 2014, and was a BBC Radio Four Book of the Week.

A dramatic shoreline in North East Scotland was the setting for a novel, Call of the Undertow (2013).

Her short stories and essays have been widely anthologised, broadcast and collected in two volumes: The Searching Glance and Life Drawing.

She teaches creative writing in a number of settings including on pathways and in the Sahara, has been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Stirling, and Writer in Residence at Brownsbank Cottage, The Royal Hospital for Children, Edinburgh, and George Watson’s College.

Giles Conisbee

Giles Conisbee is currently under commission with Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Other plays include: Freckle (Bunbanter Theatre Company, Theatre Royal, Dumfries), In Case of Emergency, Do Worry, Be Happy! Midnight Express, and Cabbages & Carrots (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), Joug - shortlisted for Scotland’s short play award, 2017. Other short plays: One For The Road, Dipper, Plastic Fantastic, Callings, Thank Farida For That, All Clear, Shame, Sugar, Snowdrop, Smoke And Satsumas, Santa Cruz (Village Pub Theatre, Edinburgh).

Jacqueline Conn

Jacqueline started her writing journey with the Tron Theatre writing workshops a few years ago. This motivated her to enter a Channel 4 comedy writing competition, where she earned a place on the shortlist. Since then she has completed a Creative Writing Diploma with the Open University, written comedy sketches, stage and radio plays and have a play in progress, Who Cares?, about life as a young carer.

Bob Davidson

Bob started writing in 2005 and has written twenty one-act plays to date. All bar a couple have been performed by amateur clubs all over Scotland. Two of the plays have won best original script in the Scott Salver competition run by the Scottish Community Drama Association. A couple have been runners up in the same competition. Bob has acted, directed, produced, made sets and set up sound and lights for numerous productions all in the glorious world of amdram. He has also written and performed a one-man musical hour long history of Scotland. Songs come easily to Bob – he has written a couple of hundred to date.

John Harvey

John has had over eighty pieces of work produced in Scotland between 1980 and 20. His work includes: Robotnik (Communicado 1983); Colonists (SYT 1986) Witch’s Blood (Dundee Rep 1987); Bicycle to the Moon (Communicado 1988); Dancer (TAG 1990); Not Walking on the Cracks (Theatre Touring Tayside 1991); Love and Pocket Money (Plan B 1992); Limbo (Benchtours 1995); Inheritance (Theatre Touring Tayside 1995); Corridor (Benchtours 1997); Remembering Hildegarde (Lung Ha’s 1998); Stoker (Awarehaus 1999); Making Room for Camille (Awarehaus 2000); The Snow Goose (Edinburgh Puppet Lab 2000); Hypothetically Murdered (Tartan Chamelion 2002); Mayhem (Benchtours/East Lothian 2005); Look Hear (Walker Art Gallery/ Fuse Theatre Liverpool 2007); Gabriel’s Gig (Drake Music, Scotland 2009).

Angela Ness

Angela is based in Dunkeld in Perthshire.

She began writing plays for young people while teaching in schools for children with social and emotional issues. Over the years more than 20 of her plays have been produced for schools.

Angela’s play Three Minutes was produced as a short play as part of Three Minutes for A Play, A Pie and A Pint. Her play Solstice was programmed as part of Assembly Roxy’s Fringe programme in 2014. Following this, her play Tick Tock was programmed for the Merchant’s Hall 2015 Fringe. Recycling won an award as part of a new writing competition at the Courtyard Theatre in London.

Angela trained as an actor and has a degree in Theatre Studies from Rose Bruford. She is also a voice actor and occasional drama teacher.

Sean O'Neil

Sean is a writer and journalist. His full length plays The Black Jew and Everyday Obedience Man had rehearsed readings at The Old Red Lion Theatre and Matchstick Theatre, while his short play Not Savages was performed at The Miniaturists at The Arcola Theatre before being staged at Vaulty Towers’ Play, Pie, Pint during VAULT Festival.

Born in Glasgow, he grew up in Donegal, Ireland, and is now based in Perth as a Senior Reporter for The Courier.

Michelle Rodley

Michelle Rodley is an actress who trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. In 2007, after a short acting career that involved TV, film and Theatre, Michelle retrained as a Primary Teacher and moved to Dunkeld. She has been teaching for 10 years and has three small boys who make everyday life a drama! (In a good way). During her time in Dunkeld, Michelle has been heavily involved with the Birnam Institute Players, performing in many plays and playing many different characters; many of which she may not have ever had the chance to try as a professional actor so Michelle will always be grateful for the amateur dramatics!

Myette Whalley

Myette Whalley studied Expressive Arts (fine art and theatre) BA (Hons) degree at Brighton Arts School before training as an actor with Cygnet Training Theatre Company in Exeter. She started working professionally in theatre from the age of 13 years, touring the length and breadth of Britain and Europe with her parent’s company The Palm Court Theatre Orchestra. As an actor she has worked for Rep, theatre seasons, children’s tours, International Festivals, summer seasons and for children’s TV. Myette started her own theatre company in 2000, called Whirlwind Theatre, after being commissioned to write and produce a community play for Cannock Chase Museum. Following this, she wrote and produced Goldilocks and the Three Blues Bears, which toured to SW English theatres.

Moving to Lancaster in 2003 she established her company and produced yearly summer productions, including: Toad of Toad Hall; Around the Pond in 80 Days; Lighthouse Keepers Lunch; The Selfish Giant; and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Tempest, with professional actors, musicians and children from all backgrounds and abilities. She wrote traditional pantomimes of Mother Goose; The Kings New Clothes, also a sensory storytelling play called Hamish Bear and The Storytelling Magpie.

Since moving to Pitlochry she has worked as a scenic artist and as a youth theatre facilitator for Pitlochry Festival Theatre, whilst developing new works.

Find out more about the spring season at Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre in the 'Play, Pasta and Prosecco' Small City Article.

Read about Colin's experience at Pitlochry Festival Theatre here.

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