Edinburgh International Festival: Slow Horses star Jack Lowden returns to the stage in Scotland for first time since Black Watch
Scottish stage and screen star Jack Lowden is to return to the stage in his home country for the first time in more than a decade when he makes his debut with the Edinburgh International Festival.
The star of the acclaimed TV series The Gold and Slow Horses will play a young man trying to recover from alcoholism in The Fifth Step when it gets its world premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in August.
Lowden, who was brought up in the Scottish Borders, has been cast in the latest drama by the award-winning Glasgow-based playwright David Ireland.
The show will reunite Lowden with the National Theatre of Scotland, which gave him his first major role when he was cast by director John Tiffany in the lead role of Cammy for its tour of Gregory Burke’s play Black Watch in 2010 while he was was in his final year at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.
The Fifth Step, which is billed by NTS as an exploration of “men, intimacy and what we choose to put our faith in”, will also see Edinburgh provide the launchpad again for a new work by Ireland.
One of the Belfast-born writer’s previous plays, Ulster American, was a Scotsman Fringe First Award-winner at the Traverse Theatre in London in 2018. The play is running in London with Hollywood actors Woody Harrelson and Andy Serkis and Derry Girls star Louisa Harland in the cast.
David Hayman is due to revive his starring role in another Ireland play, Cyprus Avenue, at The Pavilion in Glasgow next month.
The venue will also play host to The Fifth Step just after its run in Edinburgh, with Dundee Rep hosting several preview performances.
The new play, which will focus on the relationship between an older man and a younger man on an Alcoholics Anonymous programme, will be directed by Finn den Hertog, who is also working on a new stage adaptation of the classic Scottish novel Sunset Song this year.
Lowden, who went on to play Scottish Olympic hero Eric Liddell after appearing in Black Watch, has not been in a theatre production since he starred in the Shakespeare play Measure for Measure at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2018. He won an Olivier Award for his performance in the Henrik Ibsen play Ghosts in 2014.
Lowden's early screen roles included Gregory Burke’s Belfast-set feature film ‘71, the drama Tommy’s Honour, about the relationship between Scottish golfing champion Tom Morris and his son, hunting thriller Calibre and the BBC series War & Peace.
He went on to secure a leading role in Christopher Nolan's Second World War epic Dunkirk, played Morrissey in a portrait of the early life of the singer-songwriter and starred opposite Saoirse Ronan in the historical drama Mary Queen of Scots.
Lowden has told how he was determined to pursue a career as an actor after seeing Black Watch, the award-winning NTS play, which was based on interviews with real-life squaddies who had served in Iraq, on a school trip with his English class in 2007.
Lowden worked with NTS most recently when he starred alongside Janey Godley in a short film created by the comic as part of the company’s lockdown “Scenes for Survival” series.
Lowden said: “I have long been an admirer of David Ireland’s craft, his ability to provoke an audience with the boldness and brilliance of his writing. I am delighted to be returning to the theatre this year in his thrilling new play The Fifth Step.
"I am also very much looking forward to being in a rehearsal room in Glasgow with David and director Finn den Hertog and taking all the exciting theatrical steps towards premiering the production at the Edinburgh International Festival.”
Ireland said: “Jack Lowden is one of my favourite actors and I’ve wanted to work with him for years.
“I’ve spent most of my career writing about my childhood growing up in Belfast but I’ve been living in Glasgow on and off for about twenty years now so I thought it was time to start writing about my experiences of living in Scotland."I’m really pleased the National Theatre of Scotland commissioned it and that Jack and director Finn den Hertog were keen to be involved. I think the play is funny and forceful and true and I hope it keeps audience members on the edges of their seats.”
NTS is yet to cast the other character in The Fifth Step, which has been announced ahead of the Edinburgh International Festival’s programme launch in March.
NTS director Jackie Wylie said: “I don’t want to give too much away about the play. It is a piece about masculinity, shame, faith, guilt and the way that men pass down traumatic experiences.
“It is dark and difficult, but is also extremely funny. There is a lot of dramatic action, it has twists and turns, and it is pretty explosive, as people would expect with David.
“He has an extraordinary ability to say what is difficult to say, and really peel back the onions on life and people. Jack is a phenomenal actor. It will be a really big deal for Scottish audiences to have him back on stage here.”
The Fifth Step will be one of three productions staged by NTS in Edinburgh this August. A new play written by actress Charlene Boyd will see her explore her relationship with the multi-award winning American country singer June Carter Cash, the second wife of Johnny Cash.
NTS will be joining forces with site specific theatre specialists Grid Iron to recreate Nashville's famous Bluebird Cafe at the Fringe, and in venues across Scotland after the festival.
NTS has already announced Gary McNair’s stage show paying tribute to Sir Billy Connolly, which was launched in 2023, will be revived for the Fringe, where the legendary comic scored a hit with The Great Northern Welly Boot Show in 1972.
NTS will also be reviving Enough of Him, its award-winning production based on the true story of a Joseph Knight, a slave brought to Scotland from the Caribbean by a Perthshire landowner who made a fortune in the sugar trade. Knight famously secured his freedom from “perpetual servitude” after lengthy legal battle.
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