Play inspired by bothy ballads will premiere at Cumbernauld Theatre

Spectretown, a new play co-produced by Cumbernauld Theatre, will have its world premiere in the town before going to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Sunday, 24th May 2015, 3:43 pm

The play pays tribute to Scottish traditions such as bothy ballads and was written by Elspeth Turner.

She said: “My mum’s family is from the northeast of Scotland and in recent years I’ve been visiting the area more frequently. I’ve been researching bothy ballads, which were songs and stories shared by itinerate farm workers as they moved from place to place.

“Some are quite political and meaningful, but one thing that is missing is the woman’s voice, even the ballads about women are generally by men.


“Around the same time I learned about the Society of the Horseman’s Word, which was a secret society which was very large in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even today there are people who are very quiet and cagey about what the Society did.

Elspeth says a “confrontation” she witnessed in a charity shop was another important part of the genesis of this work, which itself is set in such a shop.

Elspeth added: “I did a lot of research in charity shops which involved talking to people about how they deal with ‘undesirables’ coming into the shop looking for trouble, and also learned about the sort of power struggles and politics that sometimes happen between the staff members.”

All of these elements shaped the initial script, and Elspeth teamed up with theatre company Stoirm Og, the same company which produced her 2012 hit The Idiot At The Wall.

“The story sees us in a charity shop with three members of staff. Someone leaves an old kist in the shop and there is a clear sense of something going on, something being wrong. From there the story grows, so that it connects several generations of the same family across centuries.”

The creative team for this piece is now complete, with Matthew Lenton directing.

Matt Regan is the composer. “Matt does a lot of electronic music and we’ve collided that with the bothy ballads which is very interesting,” added Elspeth,

The play will open in Cumbernauld Theatre and move on to its stint at the Edinburgh Fringe, before doing a tour ariound Scotland.

“We’re premiering in Cumbernauld which is a great space to perform in, while at the Fringe we’re in Assembly , and then we’re on tour around all these different towns, performing in small halls as well as theatres. Right now it’s a matter of figuring out how to make the show work in all these different venues without compromising any aspects of it.”

“The Idiot At The Wall was also influenced by these traditions and the audience was so receptive. People enjoy talking about things such as Doric and how we can use it in our work.

“It updates these traditions and makes them relevant to modern audiences.

“I’m still writing drafts of Spectretown, the script isn’t quite final yet, and also working on a feature film” she added.

Spectretown premieres in Cumbernauld on July 31. For tickets call 01236 732887.