It's curtains for Holyrood show

THE Scottish Parliament has turned down an invitation to be the venue for the first National Theatre show.

Anthony Neilson, whose writing credits include the Billy Connolly film, The Debt Collector, wanted to stage a production in the Holyrood debating chamber.

But the chosen site has been declared out of bounds to the production team by the parliament.

Mr Neilson, who also has a string of Festival hits under his belt, accused the parliament of having no "sense of fun".

And Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said she was dismayed by the move, pledging to table a motion and try to force the decision to be overturned.

The play, which will be performed at the same time as nine other works across the country on February 25 to mark the NTS's launch, is described by Mr Neilson as "a cross between First Minister's Questions and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party".

With a potentially stellar cast showcasing the cream of Scottish acting talent - the playwright has Robbie Coltrane, Tilda Swinton and David Tennant in his sights - the piece will be entirely based on the musings of a group of ten-year-old Scottish schoolchildren.

Mr Neilson, who was brought up in Dalry, plans to hold a series of workshops with the children, encouraging them to put down their ideas of how First Minister's Questions works and come up with a set of questions and answers. These will then be acted out verbatim by the adult actors, creating a "surreal but poignant and funny" insight into children's ideas of Scottish politics.

Mr Neilson said: "I can't understand it. I thought they had more of a sense of fun than that. They obviously feel that this project should be serving some kind of agenda. But I think it is - it will reflect to Scotland what children think about politics and what their concept of the parliament is.

"We will act out what they write. So if they think Jack McConnell is brought in on a chair like the Pope, that's how we'll perform it."

His disappointment was echoed by Independent MSP Ms MacDonald, who said: "I will ask them to reconsider their ill-advised decision to exclude young people and the NTS from the building. This would attract people to go to the parliament and to the NTS."

But a parliament spokeswoman said it was felt Mr Neilson's concept needed tweaking if it was to be allowed to be shown in the chamber. She said: "The parliament made it clear during our discussions with the National Theatre that we wanted to work with them to progress a partnership project which meets our aim of raising awareness and understanding of the parliament's role.

"The parliament has hosted a substantial range of events and activities engaging young people's views on parliament and the issues concerning them."

The facts

Anthony Neilson, who has written for TV hits such as Cracker and Prime Suspect, is well known for his innovative approach to drama.

Brought up in Dalry, he attended Edinburgh's Royal High Primary School.

He wrote and directed Stitching, which played at the Traverse at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival, and for which he was nominated Most Promising New Playwright by London's Evening Standard.

Last year, he directed Scottish Opera in The Death of Clinghoffer at the Festival, a true story is about the 1985 murder of a wheelchair-bound Jewish tourist shot and thrown off an Italian cruise liner by Palestinian terrorists.

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