Liz Lochhead ‘wilfully misunderstood’ over NTS remarks

Liz Lochhead. Picture: Neil Hanna
Liz Lochhead. Picture: Neil Hanna
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LIZ Lochhead, one of the nation’s leading writers, says she has been “wilfully misunderstood” by her critics after saying there were not enough Scots employed by the National Theatre of Scotland.

The national poet, or Makar, said she had been upset at the reaction to her comments in an interview that a shortage of Scots in the company was a “great pity”.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, admitted she regretted how she had worded some of her comments in a magazine interview, but suggested she had been deliberately misinterpreted when she said she wanted to see “more people with a Scottish theatrical culture” at NTS.

However Ms Lochhead made further criticisms criticisms of NTS, which she accused of virtually ignoring modern-day Scottish plays, including her own works.

The current and previous artistic directors of NTS, Vicky Featherstone and Laurie Sansom, are both English. Ms Lochhead said the nationality of staff did not matter as long as they had someone “looking after the Scottish side of the repertoire.”

She suggested NTS had not stuck to its original remit, which she had been involved in setting, to revive recent classics. She said she had “loved” work NTS had produced, but “couldn’t believe” some of the work she claimed had been rejected.

Ms Lochhead said it was “very difficult” for new works to be staged now because theatre companies had been “decimated” before NTS and arts agency Creative Scotland were set up.

She said: “It was a long interview with a lot of chocolate biscuits.

“I must have been high on chocolate biscuits to maybe not put things all the time exactly the way I might have meant to.

“To have been wilfully misunderstood as I feel I have been is quite upsetting actually.

“I love the work which the National Theatre of Scotland has done, but I don’t see why we should not have more work which includes some of the great Scottish works of the recent past, like Edwin Morgan’s translation of Cyrano De Bergerac.

“I was part of the original remit was to revive recent classics like that and my own version of Medea which won the Saltire Prize.”

In the interview with the literary magazine Gutter, Ms Lochhead said funding for theatre in Scotland was “in the hands of a very few people, few of them Scottish.”

She told the book festival audience: “I don’t know why I was so fiercely criticised.

“I said that I would like more Scottish repertoire in the National Theatre of Scotland, as well as the wonderful things that they do do. I wasn’t criticising anybody.

“I really, really like Laurie Sansom. The fact that he is not Scottish doesn’t matter if they have somebody there looking after the Scottish side of the repertoire.

“I love what they do, but there are other things that need to be done as well.”

Ms Lochhead singled out The Scotsman’s chief theatre writer, Joyce McMillan, for criticism, saying she was due an apology after she “made up what I don’t think.”

Ms McMillan wrote: “What matters about an artist – or an administrator, or an artistic director – is not where he or she comes from, but the attitude he or she brings to the job.

“No matter how hard those raising issues of nationality strive to make it clear that they are not attacking specific individuals, such comments will always feel profoundly personal to those involved.”

Ms Lochhead said: “If I was as articulate as her, I would have used exactly the same arguments as she used against the arguments she put forward of mine, which is not actually the argument I have.

“She owes me an apology which I possibly will or won’t get.”