1707 Act of Union play to precede referendum

Tim Barrow, Kevin Lennon and Shauna MacDonald read through the play. Picture: Contributed
Tim Barrow, Kevin Lennon and Shauna MacDonald read through the play. Picture: Contributed
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A NEW play charting the events leading up to the 1707 Act of Union will be staged at the Royal Lyceum theatre in Edinburgh just months before next year’s referendum.

Pro-independence playwright Tim Barrow is behind what the theatre is billing as a “timely romp” through the central characters and events of the time.

The Edinburgh-born writer admitted he knew nothing of the “incendiary” passage of history when he started researching the play, which he said then began to write itself.

He said: “I realised my knowledge was really lacking of these crucial events in Scottish history.

“As soon as you start researching them, it is the stuff of drama, it is a cast list to die for, and you have got poets and spies and monarchs, and countries who are tearing themselves apart and wars of religion, it is really dramatic stuff. Within an hour of research, I had started writing.”

Mark Thomson, the theatre’s artistic director, added: “I’d love to say I commissioned Union, but I didn’t. It kind of landed on my desk a couple of years ago.

“It is very difficult to read unsolicited scripts and to find quality time with them. This one sat there goading me, saying ‘how can you not read a play about the Union?’

“It just surprised me how un-dry it was. It is bustling, boisterous, foul-mouthed and theatrical, it takes you to Kensington Palace and the taverns of the Royal Mile, at a time when Scotland was debating whether it should be part of a Union and not be an independent nation.

“It is rather timely. It is celebratory, it celebrates its story, but it is talking about us now, as well as then.”

Other major new shows announced by the Royal Lyceum include Pressure, by the award-winning writer and actor David Haig, about the wartime Scottish metereologist Sir James Martin Stagg.

The British RAF officer was famously tasked with informing US president Dwight Eisenhower when to begin the D-Day landings.

The new Lyceum programme, which runs from September to May of next year, will feature versions of Private Lives by Noel Coward, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dosteyovsky.