THE SCOTTISH theatre world was united in mourning yesterday after the death of one of its most influential figures.
Glasgow-born David Mac-Lennan, who had been suffering from motor neurone disease, passed away in the early hours of the morning. He was 65.
MacLennan, an acclaimed writer, producer and director, made his name in the 1970s with iconic political theatre company 7:84, which he helped to found, and went on to form the musical theatre group Wildcat with long-time collaborator Dave Anderson.
His other ventures include being one of the key figures involved in the creation of Glasgow’s annual Mayfest, launching the Pleasance venue at the Fringe and coming up with the hugely popular “A Play, a Pie and a Pint” concept.
That was launched at the Oran Mor arts centre when it opened in Glasgow’s west end just over a decade ago and produced almost 40 plays a year, with many shows going on to tour around the world.
Announcing his passing, a statement from Oran Mor and A Play, a Pie and a Pint, which has already run to 337 productions, said MacLennan’s work, passion and achievements touched many people’s lives and changed the face of theatre in the UK.
Susannah Armitage, producer of A Play, a Pie and a Pint, said: “Everyone here is devastated about the loss of our friend and colleague David MacLennan.
“He was a passionate, kind and intelligent man who launched the careers of many and whose presence will be sorely missed. We will continue to produce A Play, a Pie and a Pint in his memory.
“Personally, he was my great friend and mentor and I will miss him terribly.” Anderson, who founded Wildcat with MacLennan in 1978, said: “We were very close and it actually felt like we were brothers.
“We were still working together until the end and we were talking about the summer panto at Oran Mor just the other day.”
MacLennan was jointly masterminding a major project for the National Theatre of Scotland in his final year, inspired by the forthcoming independence referendum. The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know, Five Minute Theatre Show will see around 180 five-minute pieces of theatre performed around the world in the space of 24 hours and broadcast online.
“The project, which will go ahead as planned on 23 June, will feature four new short plays especially written by MacLennan, who was married to Balamory actress Juliet Cadzow.
Playwright David Greig, who was co-curating the project with MacLennan, said: “David MacLennan shaped Scottish theatre and touched the lives of nearly everyone in our business. We will miss him terribly.”
Laurie Sansom, artistic director of the National Theatre Scotland, said MacLennan had continued working on the project “right until the end” and that has death had come as “a shock.”
He told The Scotsman: “He was just such an extraordinary figure. He was the absolute epitome of collaboration and of being radical about who theatre was for, what it could do and what it was about.”
Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman’s chief theatre critic, said: “There is no question David MacLennan was one of the most influential figures in Scottish theatre over the last 40 years; in some ways he was the most important.”