SPARK – The Highland New Play Festival has enlisted 14 playwrights, 8 directors and over 20 actors from the Highlands and beyond to celebrate new plays from the region over four days from 18 – 21 January 2024 at Eden Court Inverness.
This will be the first festival of its kind in the Highlands, with a huge concentration of creative talent gathering at Eden Court over the four days.
From internationally renowned actor Dolina MacLennan to the Scottish SLAM Poetry Champion Hamish MacDonald, and award-winning director Liz Carruthers working on a new Gaelic play from playwright Calum MacLeòid.
The public is invited to engage with a cornucopia of new plays, ceilidhs and panel events in the depths of winter, where audiences will be actively encouraged to give their views on developing new plays and issues which affect the theatre industry in the Highlands.
The 14 playwrights are drawn from across the region, including Orkney, Lewis, Dingwall, Inverness, Elgin, Golspie, Thurso, Morven and Aviemore.
A truly fascinating range of new playwriting reveals a wealth of creative talent in the region.
It features work by several exciting young writers, including Anna Whealing, Rebecca Martin, Lewie Watson, Jack Hunter, Gregor Mackenzie, Isla Robertson, Calum Macleòid, and Rosie Hart, along with the more experienced Áine King, Kenny Boyle, Alastair Cording, Tunde Euba, Anna Halas and George Gunn.
The festival launched with an Open Call for new plays at an early stage of development for SPARK’s Scratch Sessions.
After receiving a very high standard of applications from 29 playwrights across the Highlands & Islands, 8 were chosen, with writers paired up for 4 of these sessions.
The festival will also include 4 Script Sessions; rehearsed readings of more fully developed new plays.
The plays featured in the Script and Scratch Sessions will explore a rich variety of themes, from belonging, identity, pregnancy, war and mental health to the precarious state of the Royal Mail service in the Highlands and the surprising items that become hotel lost property.
Displaced Ukrainian writer Anna Halas examines the experience of war and forced migration; Anna Whealing explores tensions which can exist between young people who leave the Highlands and those who stay; Tunde Euba and Alastair Cording tell a little-known story of Nigerian soldiers in the British Army guarding German prisoners of war in Egypt in World War 2.
Speakout Sessions feature expert speakers and ask questions such as Highland theatre – is there such a thing? – How can you have a career in theatre? – International Touring – How & Why? Panellists include actors Dolina Maclennan, Helen Mackay & Jimmy Yuill, National Theatre of Scotland Head of Production Gemma Swallow, designer Kenneth Macleod and international guests from France & Sweden – Professor Danièle Berton and designer Ulla Karlsson.
The festival will also feature poetry from Scottish SLAM Poetry Champion Hamish Macdonald, music from Stetsonhead, Sass and Sax, Brian Ó hEadhra + Fionnag NicChoinnich le Órla Ní Eadhra + Ró Ó hEadhra, Beth Malcolm and Lucy Beth.
Several of the play readings and panel events will be BSL interpreted and live- streamed free-of-charge to make this festival as accessible as possible.
This will be the first edition of SPARK, and the team are hopeful it will become a new cultural fixture for every second January in the Highlands.
The full programme of events and tickets can be found through Eden Court’s box office.
The full creative and cast list is below.
SPARK Festival was made possible with backing from The National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.
FULL LIST OF CAST AND CREATIVES:
Kenny Boyle Alastair Cording Tunde Euba George Gunn Anna Halas
Calum L. MacLeoid Gregor Mackenzie Rebecca Martin Isla Robertson Lewie Watson Anna Whealing
Liz Carruthers Meghan de Chastelain Shilpa T-Hyland
Maggie Corbett Chinedu Igu Matthias Kremer Debbie Mackay Helen Mackay
Iain Macrae Fergus Munro Megan Macdonald Benjamin Osugo Holly Sonabend Jimmy Yuill
(More actors still to be cast)