Media Release: National Theatre of Scotland presents world premieres in Forres and Wigtown


National Theatre of Scotland, in association with Scottish Book Trust, presents




Supported by Findhorn Bay Arts and Wigtown Book Festival

Performances at: Royal British Legion Forres, Saturday 26th September 2015

And Wigtown Parish Church Hall, Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd October 2015

Directed by Simon Sharkey; Dramaturg and associate director, Davey Anderson; set and costume design by Claire Halleran; lighting design by Grant Anderson; sound design by Daniel Krass; creative associates, Gillian Gourlay and Philippa Tomlin

Cast includes: Lewis Howden, John Kielty, Fletcher Mathers, Frances Thorburn and members of the Forres and Wigtown local communities

TO begin, the National Theatre of Scotland travelled to Forres and Wigtown in May 2015 and started collecting stories from both local communities – real life stories about the journeys taken by the towns’ inhabitants over the course of their lives.

Now, six months later, those stories have made the journey from page to stage, giving rise to two new theatre productions to be performed for the first time respectively in Forres on Saturday 26th September and in Wigtown on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd October.

Some of the locals who shared their stories will take to the stage, to perform alongside a cast of acclaimed professional actors, supported by a world-class creative team of theatre-makers led by National Theatre of Scotland associate director, Simon Sharkey.

In Forres, the production will be presented as part of the Culture Day 2015 programme and in Wigtown as part of Wigtown Book Festival. To Begin… was originally inspired by Scottish Book Trust’s Journeys project, inviting people across the country to write short stories about the physical and emotional journeys they have taken.

This project will see submissions from across the country collected and distributed within a book during Scottish Book Week 2015.

In addition, the National Theatre of Scotland will produce a book documenting the To Begin… project, including portraits of contributors, their backgrounds and the scripts from both productions.

To Begin… invites audience members into a green park space, recreated within the local social hall, to take in a theatrical how-to-guide to making life’s journeys, including tales of birth, death, triumph, disaster, love, adventure, football, friendship, planes, trains, automobiles and spaceships. Locals may recognise neighbours’ stories – and faces – on stage, while other previously hidden histories will be laid bare for the first time.

The production includes a collection of songs inspired by the collected stories and performed live by the cast, which includes actors Lewis Howden (Taggart, Rebus), John Kielty (Outlander, River City), Fletcher Mathers (Whisky Galore, Macbeth) and Frances Thorburn (The Tin Forest, Glasgow Girls).

Both community casts include local school pupils.

The Forres production marks the continuation of a longstanding relationship between the National Theatre of Scotland and Moray.

Highlights include: in 2007 a team led by To Begin… director Simon Sharkey created Elgin Macbeth, a series of performances and installations amongst the ruins of Elgin Cathedral; in 2009 the company worked with the pupils of Elgin High School to write, design and perform The Carnival of Unfortunate Stories in a 1920s style Spiegeltent; in 2012 the globetrotting, award-winning production The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart was performed in the Benromach Distillery.

The National Theatre of Scotland has also visited Dumfries and Galloway on a number of occasions, including last year, when the company toured the critically acclaimed In Time o’ Strife to Stranraer Leisure Centre.

In 2009, the company worked alongside the pupils of Dumfries Academy to create Do A Dance No-one Can See You Do and Put It In A Little Bag.

One of the first visits to the area was in 2007, to perform the multi, award-winning Black Watch in at Loreburn Hall in Dumfries.

Previous appearances at the Wigtown Book Festival include: A Sheep Called Skye, performed at the Bladnoch Distillery in 2007 and in 2009 the company launched its first ever book publication at the Festival, with a special reading of Our Teacher’s A Troll by Denis Kelly.

To Begin… director, Simon Sharkey, says: “To Begin…. has been quite a journey. We started out with a simple plan to collect stories about significant journeys from the people of Forres and Wigtown, and to turn them into two pieces of theatre to be shared with those communities.

“Like most journeys, the wonderful twists, turns, detours and crossroads we have taken, and the people we have met along the way, have made it a magical and memorable experience.

“I have been amazed how open and welcoming people have been. I have been moved to tears and laughter with some of the stories told to us. I would like to thank everyone we met for sharing their story and making us welcome.

“We met hundreds of people and grew to relish and love our visits to both towns. The towns have so much in common and at the same time are so unique. I have been humbled by the generosity and friendship we have been afforded and am delighted that Scotland can boast to having towns and people such as these.

“I’d like to apologise that we couldn’t include all the stories – we would be here for weeks if we were to do them all justice. Enjoy the show. We look forward to meeting you again some time, on the road!”

Scottish Book Trust head of Reader Development, Philippa Cochrane, says: “Scottish Book Trust is delighted to be working in collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland on this fascinating project.

“We know that Scots like to travel and always have. So we hope that this project will generate lots of personal stories about journeys that are notable in some way.

“These might include real journeys, good, bad, funny or touching, or stories in turn about internal journeys of health or transformation. Scottish Book Trust will gather a selection of stories into a book, to be distributed during Book Week Scotland 2015.

“It will no doubt create a fascinating picture of many different journeys taken by the people of Scotland, and the lasting effects those experiences have had on their lives.”

Findhorn Bay arts director, Kresanna Aigner, says: “We are delighted to be working with the National Theatre of Scotland during their time in Forres and can’t wait to hear and see the stories that will emerge from the local community.

“Culture Day 2015 will provide an ideal platform to showcase some fascinating tales about journeys that members of our community have embarked on.”

Wigtown Book Festival director, Adrian Turpin, says: “We have been expanding our books programme into visual and performance arts for a number of years now, and so we couldn’t be more delighted to be hosting the National Theatre of Scotland as we enter our 17th edition.

“To begin… has been devised with the people of Wigtown, which is very much at the heart of what we do as a festival, programming and commissioning work that reflects the stories of the town, shedding light on its heritage and future, whilst celebrating the people who are the heart of its vibrancy.”

Join the conversation:  #ToBegin


Simon Sharkey – director of To Begin…

Simon is associate director of National Theatre of Scotland and part of the company’s inaugural senior management team. He leads the Learn department and previous work for the company includes large-scale site-specific productions including The Tin Forest, Jump and 99…100.

He has worked across the world and facilitates international cultural exchanges for the National Theatre of Scotland. Most recently he has been travelling throughout Scotland and internationally, developing a wide range of projects for communities.

Davey Anderson – Dramaturg and associate director for To Begin…

Davey is a director, playwright and composer, whose previous work with the National Theatre of Scotland includes Enquirer, Peter Pan, Be Near Me, Mixter Maxter, Black Watch and Home. He has worked with many theatre companies across Scotland and the UK, including The Arches, Traverse, Tron, Citizens, Grey Coast, Ankur, Birds of Paradise, Visible Fictions, ThickSkin, Donmar Warehouse and the National Theatre of Great Britain. Recent international collaborations have taken him to Limerick, Lisbon, São Paulo, Beijing and Montréal.

Claire Halleran – set and costume designer for To Begin…

Claire graduated from Glasgow School of Art and also gained a Masters in Fine Art from Queen Margaret University. Her previous design work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes Uisge-Beatha Gu Leòr (Whisky Galore), The Tin Forest, Reasons to Dance and Allotment. She has worked extensively in UK theatre and other design work includes film festivals The Pilgrimage, Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams (Mark Cousins / Tilda Swinton) and various interactive exhibition events for Edinburgh International Science Festival.


Lewis Howden

Lewis’ previous work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes Dunsinane, Calum’s Road, Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off and Our Teacher’s a Troll. Television work includes Shetland, Taggart, Rebus, Monarch of the Glen, Rosaleen, Hope Springs. Film work includes For Those in Peril, Seaside Stories, Aberdeen, The Blue Boy, Gare au mare and Slide.

John Kielty

John’s previous work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes The Tin Forest, Roman Bridge and Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off. Television and film credits include Outlander, River City, One Life Stand, Taggart, Donovan Quick, Steve, Drifting and Colin.

Fletcher Mathers

Fletcher has worked in theatre all over the UK and is also a trained singer and dancer. She has appeared in many television programmes and you will hear her voice every time you board a train in Scotland, as she has been the on-train announcer for over ten years.

Frances Thorburn

Frances is an actor, singer and songwriter, whose previous work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes The Tin Forest, Glasgow Girls and The Wolves in the Walls. Her television credits include Waterloo Road, Taggart and River City.

National Theatre of Scotland Press contacts:

Adam McDougall, press and marketing officer:

Tel: +44 (0)141 227 9231   M: +44 (0)7738 153157

Emma Schad, Press Manager:

Tel: +44 (0)141 227 9016   M: +44 (0)7930 308018



Performances at:

Royal British Legion Forres, Tolbooth St/Sanquhar Road, Forres IV36 1PH

Saturday 26th September:  1.30pm and 7.00pm

Tickets £5.00, available in person from:

Royal British Legion Forres, Tolbooth St/Sanquhar Rd, Forres

Forres House Community Centre, High St, Forres

Findhorn Bay Arts, 3 Bank Lane, Forres

Performance lasts approx. 1h15mins without interval.

Recommended for ages seven-plus


Performances at:

Wigtown Parish Church Hall, Lochancroft Lane, Wigtown DG8 9JD

(Please note – the church hall is not next to the church itself)

Friday 2nd October:  1.30pm and 7.30pm

Saturday 3rd October:  1.30pm and 7.30pm

Tickets £8 / £4 concessions, available from:

In person from The County Buildings, Wigtown

By phone on 01988 403222

Online at


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 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.

2. Scottish Book Trust believes that books and reading have the power to change lives. We work with partners throughout the country to inspire, support and challenge the people of Scotland to fulfil their potential as readers and writers and celebrate reading in all its forms.

·         We give free books to every child in Scotland to ensure families of all backgrounds can share the joy of books at home.

·         We support teachers to inspire children to develop a love of reading, creating innovative classroom activities, book awards and touring authors programme. We work with adult learners to tackle social issues and increase literacy skills.

·         We nurture and challenge Scotland’s writing community by running training, mentoring and awards.

·         We fund a range of author events for the public to enjoy and promote Scottish writing to people worldwide.

Submissions to the Scottish Book Trust Journeys creative writing challenge can be made online at The closing date for entries is 30 June 2015.

3. Findhorn Bay Arts is a non-profit arts organisation based in the ancient market town of Forres in the heart of Moray. We are passionate about promoting this beautiful part of Scotland as a place for outstanding arts, through the delivery of high quality arts events and projects. Through events such as Culture Day and the biennial Findhorn Bay Arts Festival, we aim to showcase and nurture the creativity of the area’s residents, whilst attracting high quality artists and productions to the area. We are also proud to be part of Scotland’s National Youth Arts Strategy “Time to Shine”. IGNITE: Moray Youth Arts Hub aims to open up a range of exciting routes for children and young people to connect with creativity and explore arts in Moray. Find out more at

4. Wigtown Book Festival’s mission is to produce the UK’s most vibrant book festival and develop the literary and cultural wealth of Scotland’s National Book Town and its region. In doing so, we will also deliver social and economic benefits for the people of our region. Our vision is that a prosperous and confident Wigtown will be nationally and internationally renowned for its annual book festival, and celebrated as a hub for literary and artistic activity and a destination for cultural tourism.

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National Theatre of Scotland details…

Contact: Adam McDougall
Phone: 01412279231