Leading Scottish theatres accused of shunning Scottish actors in new pandemic partnership

Two of Scotland's leading publicly-funded theatres have apologised after being condemned for shunning Scottish actors for the launch of a major new series of audio plays created in response to the pandemic.

Pam Ferrris, Toby Jones, Matti Houghton, Joseph Millson and Jackson Laing will appearing in Mark Ravenhill's audio play Angela.

Just two Scottish actors are in the 11-strong cast of Angela, which will launch a season of eight plays commissioned by the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

They have been bombarded with complaints on social media after unveiling Darling Buds of May star Pam Ferris, The Hunger Games star Toby Jones and Call the Midwife and Luther star Matti Houghton as the stars of Angela, a new play by the English playwright and actor Mark Ravenhill.

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Of the remaining cast members Jackson Laing, Joseph Millson, Nadia Albina, Dermot Daly, Raj Ghatak, Olivier Huband, Alexandra Mathie and Kirsty Stuart, only the latter two are Scottish.

The theatres have been accused of making a “gross error” in how they have used lifeline Creative Scotland funding for the production, an autobiographical play by Ravenhill inspired by his mother’s struggles with dementia.

A statement issued by “a collective of Scottish-based actors and artists” described a casting announcement as “a complete dismissal and betrayal of the talent they have here.”

The statement said: “This announcement would never be popular but in a pandemic as many of us sink and wonder if we can survive this pandemic it is a huge demoralising slap in the face.”

David Greig, artistic director at the Royal Lyceum, said: “I know how hard times are for Scottish actors right now, and appreciate that to make this particular cast announcement without

Mark Ravenhill's play Angela will open the Sound Stage season of audio plays commissioned by the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

the context of the other casts involved in the project was tin-eared.

"We’re so sorry for that, and will learn and do better going forward.

“There are two Scottish actors in the cast of Angela, one of whom lives in the north of

England. The play is Mark Ravenhill's autobiography, which explains the predominance of English actors in this particular script.

London-born Toby Jones, star of The Hunger Games and Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, will be one of the main stars of the audio play Angela.

“Sound Stage is an eight play project. Five of those plays are by Scotland-based writers: Jaimini Jethwa, Gary McNair, Frances Poet, John Byrne and Lynda Radley.

"Gary, Lynda and Jaimini's plays have 100 per cent Scotland-based casts. John’s play is majority Scotland-based, but also had Scottish actors who live in London.

"Frances’ play is set in Edinburgh and will have a majority Scotland-based cast.

"The three other plays are Angela and totally new plays by Roy Williams and Timberlake Wertenbaker, which will be cast once scripts are complete.”

Elizabeth Newman, artistic director at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, said: “We’re really sorry that the latest press release about the first production in our Sound Stage season didn’t do enough to detail the breadth of Scottish talent helping produce all eight plays.“Having confirmed the writers when we launched the project in January, we’re looking forward to announcing details about all of the directors, designers, actors and other artists involved very soon.

"Having made new work championing Scottish talent for over two and a half million people since the start of the pandemic, we can’t wait to bring Sound Stage to audiences online over the course of 2021.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “Casting decisions are an artistic matter for individual organisations, however we would expect those processes to be as open as possible.”

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