National Theatre revives James Plays for major tour

Rona Munro, playright and writer of The James Plays by the National Theatre of Scotland. Picture: Contributed
Rona Munro, playright and writer of The James Plays by the National Theatre of Scotland. Picture: Contributed
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THE National Theatre of Scotland is to revive its smash-hit historical trilogy The James Plays for a extensive UK and international tour, it was revealed last night.

Rona Munro’s acclaimed works, which wowed audiences at the Edinburgh International Festival last year, will return to the city in February before heading out on the road.

The epic plays, inspired by the three real-life Stewart kings who ruled Scotland in the 15th century, will be staged in 13 venues across the UK, with the international locations still to be confirmed.

The Scottish Government, which ploughed £200,000 into the original production, which went on to be staged in London, is also helping to pay for the revival.

The tour, which will run well into the summer, is believed to be the biggest ever undertaking for the company, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary as the revival begins at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, which staged last year’s shows, co-produced by the EIF and the National Theatre in London, which hosted Munro’s plays last autumn.

Blythe Duff, the award-winning Scottish stage and screen star, appeared in all three plays, while Sofie Grabol, the Danish actress best known for her role in The Killing, appeared in the final instalment.

Although the casting for the new production has yet to be confirmed, Grabol is one of two main cast members to rule herself out for the revival, along with Jamie Sives, who played James III. James I and II were played by James McArdle and Andrew Rothney respectively.

The international tour dates for The James Plays are yet to be announced although it is

thought the trilogy will be performed as part of a number of overseas arts festivals.

NTS has confirmed it will be giving audiences the chance to see all three plays in one marathon sitting, as it did in Edinburgh and London last year, when more than 88,000 people attended its sell-out runs.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The James Plays were one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Festival and they deserve to be enjoyed by audiences across the world.

“We recognised this great potential for the plays’ success by investing in them first time round through the Scottish Government Expo Fund in 2014.

“This year we are pleased to invest in a touring production in order to take this fantastic set of plays to new audiences around Scotland and the UK, with international touring to follow.”

Next year’s tour of The James Plays will take in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Leicester, Inverness, Glasgow, Northampton, Salford, Newcastle, Sheffield, Norwich, Canterbury, Plymouth and Nottingham between February and July.

Laurie Sansom, the company’s artistic director, who also directed The James Plays, said: “The excitement we all felt at embarking on this journey to bring to life a little known part of Scottish history and stage Rona’s remarkable trilogy, was only matched by the excitement of sharing it with audiences at the EIF and at the National Theatre in London.”

Aberdeen-born Munro, who spent three years working on the plays, said: “I have probably never had a better professional experience than I did last year with Laurie and the company of The James Plays.

“The only experience that could top that is to continue the adventure and to bring the plays home to Scotland again. I can’t wait to be back in that rehearsal room and back in front of that audience.”