Editorial- Artists and Institutions

This issue’s papers consider, from a variety of perspectives, ways in which artists have in recent years interacted with institutional formations in Scottish theatre and screen. These formations include concepts of Scotland and Anglo-Scottish relations, as seen in David Greig’s Dunsinane, the management of box office performance at the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre by Giles Havergal, the development of Scottish films as seen in contemporary critical terms and, in this issue’s forum article, the ways in which recent site-specific performances may have impinged on playwriting content and practice.

Ann Bonnar’s article on the box office practice and policy and practice of Giles Havergal during his time as a director of that company draws on her own deep experience as a theatre manager and cultural consultant. This allows her to undertake detailed analysis of both audience attendance and box office income generation. It has often been observed that Giles Havergal, besides being a great theatre artist, showed himself at the Citizens’ to be a shrewd business man. Bonnar’s article provides chapter and verse for such a judgment and reveals clear evidence of the ways in which Havergal’s management of box office offer and pricing policy affected attendances. Her paper shows another dimension to the relationship of a Scottish theatre artist to institutional formations. In this case, we are helped to understand the direct business-like relationship between a great director and his management of the business of theatre box-office and behind that, the market positioning if his theatre.

Victoria Price’s article on Dunsinane approaches the analysis of the play through a very particular perspective, contrasting the reception of two recent productions of the play under the aegis of two national companies, the English Royal Shakespeare Company and the Scottish National Theatre. Price draws attention to the fact that, between the two productions, the 2011 general election to the Scottish Parliament had taken place. She argues that the result of that election, a landslide victory for the Scottish National Party with its particular vision of the future identity of Scotland, brought new significance to the interpretation of the play and its representation of the institutional formations embedded in relations and misunderstandings between Scotland and England. While the play could be seen in its English production as implying Scotland might be seen as in a colonial relationship, subject to the kind of quasi-imperialist intervention that has recently been seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, such a simplistic interpretation was not so easy on its production in Scotland. Price also draws, in an enlightening and enlightened way, on her own experience as an audience member at the Scottish production, in her case at the Citizens’ Theatre.

Linda Hutcheson’s article on the work and impact of the conception of ‘New Scottish Cinema’ on our understanding of the product of the Scottish cinema industry over recent decades offers fresh perspectives on the past nature and future potential of Scottish cinema. To quote the article:

Prompted in part by the New Scottish Cinema symposium, which took place in Ireland in 2005 and looked back over 20 years of Scottish film, key writers have begun to critically assess the arguments and models which have circulated since 2000 and to refashion the debate for the future. Key to this revision is an attempt to define what Scottish cinema is and to locate it within a globalised cinematic marketplace.

Hutcheson places her discussion in the context of transnationalism and offers a lively and wide-ranging contribution to the debate.

This issue’s forum article by András Beck offers, from a Central European perspective, a fascinating take on the ways in which Scottish playwriting has developed since the mid-1980s and relates to the increasing interest in Scottish theatre practice in non-conventional and site-specific performances since Glasgow productions of Peter Brook’s Mahabharata (1988) and Bill Bryden’s The Big Ship (1990). Beck argues that, as these productions opened up interest in the theatrical use of non-theatre spaces on a grand scale, so they influenced playwriting approaches to imagined space, helping shift the work of playwrights away from narrower, more naturalistically determined visions of performance sites to conceiving of a more free-ranging approach to the location of the action of plays. In making this case, Beck particularly considers Europe, David Greig’s important 1994 play, and concludes by telling us of a fascinating recent Hungarian production in which the audience abandoned specific locality as it experienced the play’s performance.

Ian Brown
Ksenija Horvat