Media Release: The James Plays to tour the UK and internationally in 2016

James II by Manuel Harlan Image 11

The National Theatre of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain, present



Three plays about James I, II and III of Scotland by Rona Munro, directed by Laurie Sansom

James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock, James II: Day of the Innocents, and James III: The True Mirror                   

Design by Jon Bausor, lighting design by Philip Gladwell, sound design by Christopher Shutt; movement director Neil Bettles and associate director Amanda Gaughan

Cast to be confirmed.

Touring to Edinburgh, Birmingham, Leicester, Inverness, Glasgow, Northampton, Salford, Newcastle, Sheffield, Norwich, Canterbury, Plymouth and Nottingham from 3 February to 3 July 2016.

International touring dates to be announced.

Opening performance of James I, II and III on Saturday 6 February 2016 at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh.

FOLLOWING critical acclaim and box office success in 2014, The James Plays by Rona Munro, and directed by Laurie Sansom, are going out on a major UK tour in 2016, visiting 13 venues across England and Scotland.

The productions originally co-produced with the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain opened at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh during the Edinburgh International Festival on 10 August, and then subsequently played at the Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London, selling out both runs and playing to over 88,000 people.

The plays went on to win the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best New Play and the Writers Guild Award for Best New Play (James I).

Described by The Telegraph as ‘better than Shakespeare’ and ‘Rona Munro’s thrilling trilogy could be the finest history plays ever penned’, The James Plays, exhilarating and vividly imagined, bring to life three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland from 1406 -1488.

Each play stands alone as an unique vision of a country tussling with its past and future, with its own distinct theatrical atmosphere.

Viewed together, they create a complex and compelling narrative on Scottish culture and nationhood.

The James Plays are historical drama for a contemporary audience, served up with a refreshing modern directness.

Audiences are invited to view the performances from the actual stage and share the performer’s perspective of the space.

These seats, built into the set, are at heart of the action, as an ensemble of actors takes the audience through a rarely-explored period of history with playful wit and boisterous theatricality.

Audiences responded enthusiastically to the opportunity of viewing the plays as a complete trilogy, seen over the course of a day.

This production will pioneer a new bespoke touring pattern with English venues offering audiences the chance to see all three plays together, on a Saturday or Sunday.

The Scottish venues performance schedules vary with individual James Plays performances as well as a triple bill of plays on offer.

Rona Munro, writer of The James Plays, says: “I have probably never had a better professional experience than I did last year with Laurie and the company of The James Plays.

“The only experience that could top that is to continue the adventure and to bring the plays home to Scotland again. I can’t wait to be back in that rehearsal room and back in front of that audience.”

Laurie Sansom, artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland and director of The James Plays says: “The excitement we all felt at embarking on this journey to bring to life a little known part of Scottish history and stage Rona’s remarkable trilogy, was only matched by the excitement of sharing it with audiences at the EIF and at the National Theatre in London.

“We now have the chance to share it with audiences across the UK which will be a real privilege. We are indebted to all the partners who have made this possible, including the Scottish Government.”

Lisa Burger, executive director of the National Theatre of Great Britain, says: “Our collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland on Laurie Sansom’s unforgettable production of The James Plays was undoubtedly one of last year’s highlights, setting the Olivier Theatre alight with exhilarating energy every evening.

“We’re delighted that Rona Munro’s tremendous trilogy will live again for audiences around the country.”

Fergus Linehan, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, says: “We are delighted that many thousands more people will be able to enjoy Rona Munro’s extraordinary trilogy, The James Plays, which made such an impact at the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival, in a unprecedented collaboration with The National Theatres’ of Scotland and Great Britain.

The James Plays are a great example of how the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund promotes collaboration and ambition, ensuring that Scottish works of stature remain at the centre of the Festival’s programme.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for  Culture, Europe and External Affairs says: “The James Plays were one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Festival and they deserve to be enjoyed by audiences across the world.

“We recognised this great potential for the plays’ success by investing in them first time round through the Scottish Government Expo Fund in 2014.

“This year, we are pleased to invest in a touring production in order to take this fantastic set of plays to new audiences around Scotland and the UK, with international touring to follow.”



James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock                                                                                            

By Rona Munro, directed by Laurie Sansom

Bold and irreverent storytelling explores the complex character of this colourful Stewart king – a poet, a lover, a law-maker but also the product of a harsh political system.

James I of Scotland was captured when he was only 13 and became King of Scots in an English prison. Eighteen years later, he’s finally delivered back home with a ransom on his head and a new English bride.

He’s returning to a poor nation, the royal coffers are empty and his nobles are a pack of wolves ready to tear him apart at the first sign of weakness.

But James has his own ideas about how to be a king and, after 18 years, he finally has the chance to realise them. James is determined to bring the rule of law to a land riven by warring families, but that struggle will force him to make terrible choices if he is to save himself, his Queen and the crown.


James II: Day of the Innocents                                                                                                              

By Rona Munro, directed by Laurie Sansom

In the second of Rona Munro’s dynastical trilogy, innocent games merge with murderous intent in a violent royal playground of shifting realities and paranoia.

An eight year-old boy is crowned King of Scots. Soon, James II is the prize in a vicious game between the country’s most powerful families, for whoever has the person of the boy king, controls the state. Seen through a child’s eyes, the Scottish court is a world of monsters with sharp teeth and long knives.

Growing up alone, abandoned by his mother and separated from his sisters, James II is little better than a puppet. There is only one relationship he can trust, his growing friendship with another lonely boy, William, the future Earl of Douglas.

The two boys cling together as they try to survive the murder and mayhem that surrounds them.

But the independence and power of young adulthood brings James into an even more threatening world.

He has to fight the feuding nobles who still want to control him, he has to make brutal choices about the people he loves best, he has to struggle to keep his tenuous grip on the security of the crown and on his sanity…. while the nightmares and demons of his childhood rise up again with new and murderous intent.


James III: The True Mirror                                                                                                        

By Rona Munro, directed by Laurie Sansom

Like James III himself, the final instalment of Rona Munro’s extraordinary trilogy is colourful, brash and unpredictable. It turns its eye on the women of the royal court, both lowly and high born, who prove to be its beating heart.

James III of Scotland. A man who’s irresistible, charismatic, a man of fashion and culture. A man with big dreams … and no budget to realise any of them.

Obsessed with grandiose schemes that his nation can ill-afford and his restless nobles will no longer tolerate, James is loved and loathed in dangerously unstable proportions.

But Scotland’s future will be decided by the woman who loves him best of all, his resourceful and resilient wife, Queen Margaret of Denmark.

As dreams battle brutal realities and the nation thunders dangerously close to regicide and civil war, her true love and clear vision offer the only protection that can save a fragile monarchy and rescue a struggling people.

But the cost for Margaret herself may be too high.


Tour information:

Tickets are not yet on sale at any of these venues.  Please check which will release booking info as each venue goes on sale.

Festival Theatre Edinburgh, 13/29 NICOLSON STREET, EH8 9FT               

James I – Wed 3 February 2016 (preview) and Wednesday 10 February 2016
James II  – Thurs 4 February 2016 (preview) and Thursday 11 February 2016
James III – Friday 5 February 2016 (preview) and Friday 12 February 2016

Opening Performance on Saturday 06 February (times to be advised). James I, II and III

Trilogy Day: Saturday 13 February 2016

Eden Court Theatre, Bishops Rd, Inverness
Week of 28 March – performance schedule tbc

King’s Theatre, 297 Bath Street, Glasgow
Week of 4 April – performance schedule tbc

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton
Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 April 2016 – two trilogy days

The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays
Saturday 23 and Sun 24 April 2016 – two trilogy days

Newcastle Theatre Royal, 100 Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne
30 April & Sun 1 May 2016 – – two trilogy days

Sheffield Theatres, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Saturday 7 and Sun 8 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Norwich Theatre Royal, Theatre St, Norwich, Norfolk
Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Marlowe Theatre, The Friars, Canterbury, Kent
Saturday 21 and Sun 22 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth
Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May 2016 – two trilogy days

Curve, Leicester, 60 Rutland Street, Leicester
Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 June 2016

Nottingham Theatre Royal, Theatre Square, Nottingham
Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June 2016

Full tour details to be confirmed.

Join the conversation: #jamesplays

For further information please contact:

Emma Schad, press manager
Tel: +44 (0)141 227 9016 / +44 (0)7930 308 018   E:

Joe Blythe, press officer
Tel: +44 (0)141 227 9497 / +44 (0)7500 258 404 E:

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Laurie Sansom is the artistic director and chief executive of the National Theatre of Scotland.

Previously, he was artistic director of the Royal & Derngate Theatre, Northampton, from 2006 and associate director to Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough from 2002 to 2006. His production of The Driver’s Seat for the National Theatre of Scotland opened at The Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh on 18 June 2015.

Laurie’s productions at the Royal & Derngate include The Bacchae, Blood Wedding and Hedda Gabler, which were presented as The Festival of Chaos, as part of London 2012 Festival.

Other recent productions include Spring Storm and Beyond the Horizon which transferred to the National Theatre, London, and for which he received the 2010 TMA Award for Best Director, Frankenstein (with Frantic Assembly), The Duchess of Malfi and Follies. In 2009, the Royal & Derngate’s production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, winning Anna Francolini the TMA Award for Best Performance in a Play.

He has directed for theatres around the UK including the Traverse, Birmingham Rep, Salisbury Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith, New Vic, Stoke, West Yorkshire Playhouse and the National Theatre, London, where he recently directed The Holy Rosenbergs.

Rona Munro’s  recent theatre writing credits include Scuttler (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester) Donny’s Brain (Hampstead Downstairs), The Astronaut’s Chair (for the Drum Theatre Plymouth), Pandas (for the Traverse Theatre), Little Eagles (for the Royal Shakespeare Company), a contemporary adaptation of The House Of Bernarda Alba for the National Theatre of Scotland), The Last Witch (for the Edinburgh International Festival), Long Time Dead (co-production with Paines Plough and the Drum Theatre Plymouth), Iron (for the Traverse Theatre – winner of the John Whiting award), and Mary Barton (for the Royal Exchange Theatre).

Television work includes the BAFTA nominated Bumping The Odds and Rehab (both for the BBC). Film work includes Ladybird Ladybird directed by Ken Loach and Oranges And Sunshine directed by Jim Loach.

Radio work includes multiple episodes of The Stanley Baxter Playhouse. She is the writing half of Scotland’s award winning women’s theatre company The Misfits.



  1. The National Theatre of Scotland is dedicated to playing the great stages, arts centres, village halls, schools and site-specific locations of Scotland, the UK and internationally. As well as creating ground-breaking productions and working with the most talented theatre-makers, the National Theatre of Scotland produces significant community engagement projects, innovates digitally and works constantly to develop new talent. Central to this is finding pioneering ways to reach current and new audiences and to encourage people’s full participation in the company’s work. With no performance building of its own, the company works with existing and new venues and companies to create and tour theatre of the highest quality. Founded in 2006, the company, in its short life, has become a globally significant theatrical player, with an extensive repertoire of award-winning work. The National Theatre of Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government.
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