A HOST of television stars have been lined up to tread the boards for the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland in Edinburgh.
A stellar cast featuring some of the most well-kent members of the Scottish acting fraternity will perform the "Home Edinburgh" production at the Queen's Hall next Saturday.
Edinburgh's own Shauna Macdonald, who stars in BBC spy drama Spooks and recently won critical acclaim for her role in hit British horror flick The Descent, and Leith-born Tam Dean Burn, star of Irvine Welsh plays Filth and Headstate, will appear alongside small screen favourites Daniela Nardini and Sea of Souls' Dawn Steele for the production.
Devised by maverick director Anthony Neilson, the play will be based entirely on the musings of a group of West Lothian children, who have been taking part in workshops with the director over the past fortnight.
The cast, who also includes Crow Road star Joe McFadden, Taggart actors Alex Norton and Colin McCredie and Raquel Cassidy, Nardini's co-star from last year's award-winning Annie Griffin film Festival, will enact the children's ideas of what happens at First Minister's Question Time.
Mr Neilson has said he wants the play to replicate the children's words exactly, so that however they envisage Scottish politics will dictate the plot and action of the innovative play.
"We will act out what they write," he said at the start of the project. "So if they think Jack McConnell is brought in on a chair like the Pope, that's how we'll perform it."
Mr Burn, 47, said he was delighted to be coming back to his home city for the production, in which he is set to play the role of a "Tommy Sheridan-style" politician.
Brought up in Clermiston, the former Craigmount High pupil hopes his Leith and Granton-based family will be out in force to watch the play.
The London-based actor, who plays gangster McCabe in the BBC soap River City, said: "I'm really looking forward to it. I've never done a play like this before, but I think it's a great idea.
"The launch of the National Theatre of Scotland will really show people how theatre can relate to them in ways they wouldn't have expected."
Mr Burn said his role was very apt, since he once toyed with becoming a politician himself.
"I've been cast as the kind of Tommy Sheridan left-wing firebrand and for once, I am very happy to be typecast.
"There was a period where I was looking much more into politics than acting and I actually stood in the 1992 General Election as the Communist Party candidate for Glasgow Central. So I'm really pleased to be playing this part because I think I'll get the best lines."
Sadly for the cast and crew, the First Minister himself will not be in the audience to witness the children's vision acted out.
A spokesman for Jack McConnell said: "I'm sure the First Minister would have enjoyed watching First Minister's Questions for a change. Unfortunately his diary means that he too will be on stage that day - addressing the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Aviemore."
The National Theatre of Scotland is being launched with ten simultaneous productions across Scotland, from Stornaway to Caithness and Shetland to the Borders, all with the theme of "home".
Tickets to Home Edinburgh, which will be performed at 4pm and 7.30pm, are available free at the Queen's Hall box office. The second performance will be signed for the deaf.
CURTAINS UP ACROSS COUNTRY FOR LAUNCH OF NTS
A SERIES of free plays performed simultaneously at venues across the country will launch the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) on February 25.
From Shetland to Stornaway and Aberdeen to the Borders, each of the ten productions will be based around the theme of "home".
The long-awaited national theatre company was set up to commission, fund and brand plays and then take them out to audiences countrywide.
It was launched by the Scottish Executive with 7.5 million in funding.
Its artistic director and chief executive, Vicky Featherstone, said on her appointment to the post in July 2004: "This is an incredible moment, a life-changing moment, for me personally and also, I believe, for theatre, and for Scotland.
Ms Featherstone added: "We will have very exciting, epic, state-of-the-nation productions that will make us proud to be alive, let alone Scottish."