Two nations may divide, but writers and artists prove tight-lipped

Why aren't there more plays focused on Scottish independence at Edinburgh?

Share

On the Edinburgh Fringe over the last three weeks there have been 2,871 shows. Of these less than a handful have focused on the question of Scottish independence. Indeed one of the very few that did, I’m With the Band, was written by a Welshman, and looked at the impact of Scottish independence on Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

Just three or four plays about independence at the largest arts festival in the world which takes place in the Scottish capital, and at the last Edinburgh Festival before the year of the independence referendum. Well, there can only be one of two reasons for this. Either the people of Scotland are so bored by the whole idea that no self-respecting playwright would risk writing about it; or it might be that the arts world has failed abysmally to address the issue of the moment.

If it’s the former, Alex Salmond might as well resign now. But I don’t think it is. The issue of independence is clearly a live one in Scotland, and should be a live one in the rest of the United Kingdom. And if it isn’t, then our artists should be exploring why it isn’t. Either way, there cannot be any excuse for failing to address the issue. Nor need it just be theatre that addresses it. How many of the best Edinburgh jokes lists that we are seeing contain any about independence? Comedians too appear to dismiss the whole independence debate as lacking in scope. Likewise painters, dancers, musicians. Where are the rock songs on the subject? Why should The Independence Symphony be out of the question?

Only at the Edinburgh Books Festival has the issue properly reared its head. Andrew Marr talking about his book The Battle of Scotland said among other things that he was amazed at how little attention the Scottish referendum on independence was receiving in England. “It is almost funny that the Scottish case is not discussed down south at all. People believe the opinion polls that it is going to be overwhelmingly ‘no’. I doubt that very much.”

But if it’s amazing that it isn’t being discussed in England, how much more amazing is it that it isn’t being explored in Scotland, at the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. I am one of very many who argue that theatre is crucial to our lives as, among other things, it informs us about the world and the issues that affect us. It is harder to make that argument convincingly when theatre — and yes comedy too — shows such a staggering lack of interest in one of the biggest schisms in the United Kingdom in our lifetimes. Do artists not read the papers or watch the news?

*********

In 50 years’ time, though, there will be probably be plenty of plays about Scottish independence. Or more likely, there will be plenty of Scottish independence musicals. Anniversary theatre, with music, seems to be in vogue. Andrew Lloyd Webber has already announced that, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Profumo scandal, he will be opening a musical about it in December. It will be called Stephen Ward, after a key protagonist in the scandal. But, why have one 50th anniversary musical when you can have two? Suddenly, it emerges that a new musical called Profumo (and not by Lloyd Webber) will have its world premiere next week at the Waterloo East Theatre in London. No doubt, Keeler the opera and Rice Davies the ballet are to come.

************

I love pretty much everything about the Proms, but why do they boast of bringing pop and classical together in revelatory style with a late night Prom that had The Stranglers and Laura Marling performing with a classical orchestra? I attended that late night Prom, and it was fun to see fine performances from both acts, but being told from the stage what a revelatory concept this was did puzzle me. That little known outfit The Beatles had an orchestra in the studio more than once, The Who performed their rock opera Tommy with the London Symphony Orchestra well over 40 years ago. The Proms aren’t being quite as original as they claim.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Receptionist

£15000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Writer and director Armando Iannucci at the 40th Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival  

BBC bosses should be prised out of senior roles to let new talent rise up

Anonymous
Turkey, where Executive Escapes had 500 clients when it went bust  

Why do holiday companies go bust on Fridays?

Simon Calder
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future