Media Release: The Thick of It’s Paul Higgins has been cast in the lead role of Caledonia

National Theatre of Scotland and Edinburgh International Festival present CALEDONIA with the Thick of It’s Paul Higgins as the lead

by Alistair Beaton

Directed by Anthony Neilson

Designed by Peter Mackintosh

Lighting designed by Chahine Yavroyan

Sound designed by Nick Sagar

Composer – Paddy Cunneen

Movement director – Anna Morrissey

The full cast is Paul Blair, Tam Dean Burn, Cliff Burnett, David Carlyle, Alan Francis, Frances Grey, Paul Higgins, Neil McKinven, Robert Melling, Matthew Pidgeon and Morna Young.


21 to 26 August 2010 at the Edinburgh International Festival

Preview performances at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness on 13, 14 & 16 August.

THE National Theatre of Scotland returns to the Edinburgh International Festival, following previous appearances with Realism, The Bacchae and 365.

CALEDONIA, written by Alistair Beaton and directed by Anthony Neilson, will receive its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival on 21 August at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, following preview performances at Eden Court, Inverness.

Says a spokesperson: “CALEDONIA is a story of greed, euphoria and mass delusion. It is the story of a small, poor country mistaking itself for a big, rich country.

“William Paterson was a financial adventurer who in the late 1600’s planned to found a Scottish colony in Darien on the isthmus of Panama in Central America and turn Scotland, one of the poorest nations in Europe, into a prosperous colonial power.

“He invited the public to invest and within weeks a vast proportion of the nation’s wealth had been subscribed. Distance, disease and a naive optimism all played their part in this ruinous episode. Within a few years, the Scots – demoralised and impoverished – gave up their nation’s independent status and signed the 1707 Treaty of Union with England.”

The spokesperson continued: “Inspired by documents, journals, letters, songs and poems of the period, celebrated playwright and satirist Alistair Beaton has created a work that is both a tribute to heroic ambition and a darkly witty take on the deceptions and self-deceptions of rich and poor alike.

CALEDONIA is directed by Anthony Neilson, the writer and director whose award-winning work for the Edinburgh International Festival has included the National Theatre of Scotland’s Realism and The Wonderful World of Dissocia.”

Alistair Beaton’s recent plays include Follow My Leader (Birmingham Rep and Hampstead Theatre) and King of Hearts (Hampstead Theatre). His political comedy Feelgood (Garrick Theatre) won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy as well as an Olivier Award nomination. Recent television films include A Very Social Secretary and The Trial of Tony Blair for Channel 4. He is also author of a number of best-selling books.

The play is directed by Anthony Neilson whose previous work as a director includes The Big Lie; God In Ruins and The Drunks for the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Death of Klinghoffer for Scottish Opera and the Edinburgh International Festival in 2005.  Anthony is also an Artistic Associate of the National Theatre of Scotland for whom he directed Home: Edinburgh and wrote and directed Realism.

The National Theatre of Scotland toured The Wonderful World of Dissocia, written and directed by Anthony Neilson in 2007, which won the 2007 TMA Award for Best Touring Production.

Anthony’s film and television credits include The Debt Collecto;  Spilsbury; Deeper Still and Spooks which Anthony is the Serial Story Consultant for. Further projects for 2010 include directing a Christmas show for The Royal Court Theatre which Anthony will write and direct.

The full cast for CALEDONIA is Paul Blair, Tam Dean Burn, Cliff Burnett, David Carlyle, Alan

Francis, Frances Grey, Paul Higgins, Neil McKinven, Robert Melling, Matthew Pidgeon and Morna Young. 

Paul Higgins is taking on the role of William Paterson. Higgins is known for his role as Jamie in BBC TVs The Thick of It and Armando Iannucci’s film In the Loop.  His theatre work includes Black Watch (National Theatre Scotland); The White Guard (National Theatre); The Tempest (Tron Theatre Company); Damascus (Traverse Theatre/Tricycle Theatre/Middle East Tour); Paul, An Enemy of the People and The Hare Trilogy (National Theatre).

The National Theatre of Scotland recently co-presented Higgins’ debut play Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us (Traverse Theatre) and he is currently the Company’s Pearson Playwright. Other recent film appearances include Andrea Arnold’s Red Road.

Paul Blair appeared in Anthony Neilson’s 2008 Realism (National Theatre Scotland/Edinburgh International Festival) and has recently worked with Steven John Atkinson on Lidless (High Tide Festival) and Lorne Campbell in Carthage Must Be Destroyed (Theatre Royal Bath). Films include Clive Barker’s Book of Blood, David Mackenzie’s Hallam Foe and TV includes Dear Green Place (STV).

Tam Dean Burn’s recent theatre work includes Year Of The Horse (Tron Theatre Company/Edinburgh Assembly); The Caretaker (Citizens Theatre) and Venus As A Boy (Burnt Goods/National Theatre of Scotland Workshop).  Forthcoming TV and film includes Asylum (Channel 4) and David Mackenzie’s The Last Word (Sigma Films).

Cliff Burnett’s theatre work includes Peer Gynt (National Theatre Of Scotland/Dundee Rep Theatre/Barbican); Fall (Traverse Theatre); Romeo and Juliet, Hedda Gabbler, The Tempest, Moby Dick Rehearsed, Equus and The Cherry Orchard (Dundee Rep Theatre).

David Carlyle recently graduated from Rose Bruford College where he appeared in The Wonderful World of Dissocia.

Alan Francis has collaborated with Anthony Neilson on a number of stage works including  The Wonderful World of Dissocia (National Theatre Scotland/ Edinburgh International Festival); Jeffrey Dahmer Is Unwell (Hampstead Theatre) and Penetrator (Traverse Theatre/The Royal Court Theatre). Francis is also a writer and comedian and regularly appears at the Edinburgh Festivals.

Frances Grey is known for her TV performances in Messiah I, II and III as DS Kate Beauchamp. Grey’s most recent TV work includes playing Marianne Mckee in River City and Mary Pace in the BBC’s Garrow’s Law.  She has previously appeared in Anthony Neilson’s Relocated (The Royal Court Theatre).

Neil McKinven recently appeared in The Last Witch directed by Dominic Hill (Edinburgh International Festival/Traverse Theatre). Other theatre works include Curse of the Starving Classes (Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh); Of Mice and Men (Perth Theatre); Rupture (National Theatre of Scotland); The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night (RSC). TV and film work includes Rebus, Taggart and Hallam Foe.

Robert Melling studied at RSAMD and has previously worked with National Theatre of Scotland on The Wolves in the Walls as Musical Director.  As a musician he has performed throughout the UK and Europe including venues such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Wigmore Hall, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Auckland Palace Durham and extensively throughout Scotland. Robert has also worked with the Chamber group of Scotland, BT Scottish Ensemble, Paragon, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Cappella Nova and the John Currie Singers. 

Matthew Pidgeon’s stage experience includes recent appearances in Midsummer (Traverse Theatre/Soho Theatre); The Cherry Orchard (Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh) and Kyoto (Traverse Theatre/Oran Mor).  His work with Anthony Neilson includes The Wonderful World of Dissocia; Realism (National Theatre Scotland/Edinburgh International Festival); The Lying Kind (The Royal Court Theatre) and Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats Of Loneliness, (Plymouth Theatre Royal).

Morna Young is an associate artist of the Out of Darkness Theatre Company with credits including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, C.R.I.E Out and Kathakali.

The Edinburgh International Festival received £200,000 from the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund to produce this collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland and Alistair Beaton. The Expo Fund supports new work by Scottish-based talent at all the Edinburgh Festivals.

Now in its third year, the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund provides opportunities for exciting and innovative programming, helping to showcase Scotland’s creative talent by supporting ambitious projects at all of Edinburgh’s Festivals.


Venue, date and time:

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh on 21 to 25 August 2010.  Evening perfs at 7.30pm.  Matinees on Sunday 22, Wednesday 25, Thursday 26 at 2.30pm. No show Monday 23rd

Ticket prices:

£12 – £27

Box Office:

0131 473 2000

Online booking:

Accessible Performances:

Captioned perf – Tuesday 24 August 7.30pm
BSL interpreted and audio described perf – Wed 25 August 7.30pm
Touch tour – Wed 25 August 6.30pm

Events: Edinburgh International Festival Explorations –Alistair Beaton, Tom Devine (Professor of Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh), Dr Gary Shea  (Economist at University of St Andrews) in discussion about Scotland’s failed foray into Colonialism on Tuesday 24 August at 2.30pm Tickets: £6.50.  In association with the British Council

Edinburgh International Festival Conversations – Alistair Beaton and Anthony Neilson on Tuesday 24 August at 5pm. Tickets: £6.50

Preview performances at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

Dates and Times:                            

13, 14 and 16 August at 8pm

Ticket Prices:                                    

£12/£10 concs

Box Office:                                      

01463 234234

Online booking:                      



Edinburgh International Festival:

Susie Burnet – Media Relations Manager T +44(0)131 473 2020 E

Julie McSkimming – Broadcast Liaison T +44(0)131 473 2020 E

Jane Davis – Press Officer T +44(0)131 473 2020 E

All media ticket requests – Susie Burnet – T +44(0)131 473 2020 E

National Theatre Scotland: Wendy Grannon – Publicist for Caledonia – 0141 227 9495


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Please do contact the press office directly for images for future productions.


About The National Theatre of Scotland

The National Theatre of Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government.

Since its launch in February 2006, the National Theatre of Scotland has been involved in creating 117 productions in 114 different locations. With no building of its own, the company takes theatre all over Scotland and beyond, working with existing and new venues and companies to create and tour theatre of the highest quality. It takes place in the great buildings of Scotland, but also in site-specific locations, airports and tower blocks, community halls and drill halls, ferries and forests. The company has performed to over 468,000 people, across three continents.

About the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund

The Scottish Government’s Expo Fund of £6 million over three years (2008-09 to 2010-11) is available to all 12 Edinburgh Festivals to support the development of Scottish-based work.

About the Edinburgh International Festival

Featuring new and classic drama, opera, music, and dance Edinburgh International Festival 2010 runs from Friday 13 August to Sunday 5 September across the city in theatres, concert halls and opera houses attracting audiences from around the world to Scotland’s picturesque capital. Full details are available at

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Contact: Wendy Grannon
Phone: 0141 227 9495