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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance & IT Assistant

£20200 - £24800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior PHP Developer - Zend Framework

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This number one supplier of Coo...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Forecast Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Forecast Analyst is required to join a...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
John Rentoul outside the Houses of Parliament  

If I were Prime Minister...I would be like a free-market version of Natalie Bennett

John Rentoul
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea