Alan Bissett Scottish independence play at Fringe

ONE of Scotland’s top writers has vowed to bring a host of the nation’s leading actors together to stage a major pro-independence show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Alan Bissett is planning a stage show in a bid to win dont know voters. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Just weeks before voters go to the polls, writer and playwright Alan Bissett wants to put on a new play The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant.

Falkirk-born Bissett, one of the foremost voices in the cultural movement for independence, claims the aim of the play, which he says will be steeped in Scottish folklore, will be to bring “don’t knows” closer to the “yes” side of the debate.

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His show, which has already been endorsed by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, is the first Fringe production confirmed to tackle the issue of Scotland’s future this August, although the writer is keeping both the cast and venue under wraps for now.

Bissett, 38, who wrote and performed in a play exploring feminism at last year’s Fringe, is putting his own money into the new project. But he also hopes a crowdfunding campaign will raise up to £15,000 to help meet the costs of the production. He has told potential backers – who are being asked to contribute between £10 and £1,500 – that he is assembling a cast of “some of the best actors in Scotland”.

His plans have emerged months after the Edinburgh International Festival came under fire when director Jonathan Mills insisted there would be nothing in his final programme directly tackling the independence debate.

Bissett, who moved into stage plays five years ago, said it would be a “glaring anomaly” if Scottish playwrights did not tackle the issue in August.

He said: “The world’s media and international audiences will be watching to see what we have to say about it. I decided to do the play primarily because there’s only one month before the referendum and I wanted to use my voice and this platform to try and nudge people towards a yes vote.

“The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant is a rambunctious, energetic piece of agit-prop – in the good, rousing manner of a John McGrath play or Oh! What a Lovely War – staged in the supernatural world of Scottish mythology.

“The faeries are divided about the impact the referendum will have on them, and set to try and influence its outcome. Along the way, cliches about the Scots are subverted and some home truths about our situation are faced.”

The festival has since unveiled plans to stage a series of new plays set in 15th-century Scotland which will explore how the country was ruled by three generations of Stewart kings when it was an independent nation.

Rona Munro’s trilogy, which will feature Taggart star Blythe Duff and The Killing’s Sofie Grabol, is being staged as part of a six-month National Theatre of Scotland season exploring Scottish identity.

Although a handful of shows touched upon the independence debate at last year’s Fringe, eyebrows were raised that they included separate productions by an English theatre company, a Welsh playwright and a Finnish director adapting a Swedish play.

Orla O’Loughlin, artistic director at the Traverse Theatre, last year said she had had no submissions from Scottish playwrights on the issue.

Bissett added: “The Edinburgh International Festival isn’t covering the referendum this year and the National Theatre of Scotland is taking an understandably neutral stance, which leaves room for a pro-yes play.

“The challenge for me was to write something that is aware of and challenges itself as political propaganda, while still getting the ‘yes’ message through to the audience and being a hugely enjoyable night at the theatre.”