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Inaugural SPARK – The Highland New Play Festival to be staged at Eden Court in Inverness

By Val Sweeney

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The inaugural SPARK – The Highland New Play Festival will take place at Eden Court Theatre this month.
The inaugural SPARK – The Highland New Play Festival will take place at Eden Court Theatre this month.

An inaugural four-day festival celebrating new plays and bringing together playwrights, actors and directors will be staged in Inverness later this month.

SPARK – The Highland New Play Festival is taking place at Eden Court Theatre from January 18 - 21.

As well as new plays, it will include readings, spoken word, talks, music and panel events 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 creative talent includes internationally-renowned actor Dolina MacLennan, Scottish Slam Poetry champion Hamish MacDonald, award-winning director Liz Carruthers, Gaelic playwright Calum MacLeòid and displaced Ukrainian writer Anna Halas.

It is being organised by Highland-based touring company, Dogstar Theatre, in partnership with Eden Court and Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and has been made possible with backing from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.

It has enlisted 14 playwrights from across the region including Inverness, Dingwall, Elgin, Golspie, Thurso, Morven, Aviemore, Orkney and Lewis.

It features work by several 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.

Actor Dolina MacLennan is taking part in the festival.
Actor Dolina MacLennan is taking part in the festival.

The festival launched with an open call for new plays at an early stage of development for SPARK’s Scratch Sessions.

After receiving a high standard of applications from 29 playwrights across the Highlands and Islands, eight were

chosen with writers paired up for four of the sessions.

The festival will also include four script sessions – rehearsed readings of more fully developed new plays.

The plays featured in the Script and Scratch sessions will explore themes such as belonging, identity, pregnancy, war and mental health to the precarious state of the Royal Mail service in the Highlands and the surprising items which become hotel lost property.

Displaced Ukrainian writer Anna Halas examines the experience of war and forced migration while 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 II.

Guests include Scottish Slam Poetry champion Hamish MacDonald.
Guests include Scottish Slam Poetry champion Hamish MacDonald.

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? and International Touring – How & Why?

Panellists include Dolina Maclennan, Helen Mackay, Jimmy Yuill, National Theatre of Scotland head of

production Gemma Swallow, designer Kenneth Macleod and guests from France and Sweden.

The festival will also feature music from Stetsonhead, Sass and Sax, Brian Ó hEadhra and Fionnag NicChoinnich le Órla Ní Eadhra and Ró Ó hEadhra, Beth Malcolm and Lucy Beth.

Several play readings and panel events will be BSL interpreted and live-streamed free-of-charge to make the festival as accessible as possible.

It is hoped the festival will become a new cultural fixture for every second January in the Highlands.

The full programme of events and tickets can be found through the box office at Eden Court.

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