National Theatre of Scotland to adapt Makar Jackie Kay's memoir

The stage adaptation of Jackie Kay's memoir Red Dust Road will be launched at the Edinburgh International Festival next year.
The stage adaptation of Jackie Kay's memoir Red Dust Road will be launched at the Edinburgh International Festival next year.
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The National Theatre of Scotland will adapt Scots Makar Jackie Kay’s memoir on tracking down her biological parents, turn a Glasgow office block into a futuristic pop-up theatre and stage a series of plays on Scotland’s relationship with Europe in the final hours before Brexit in 2019.

Next year’s programme will include a stage version of The Panopticon, Jenni Fagan’s best-selling debut novel inspired by her experiences of the Scottish care system.

Leading disabled performers will depict a series of Elvis impersonators in a show which will “tackle the myth of how bodies should be and have been trained to be.”

Hit shows returning include director Joe Douglas’s new adaptation for Dundee Rep of the classic 1970s play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, and My Left Right Foot - The Musical, one of this year’s big award winners at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Jackie Wylie, NTS’s artistic director said the 2019 programme would be focusing on “major Scottish artists creating major new works exploring the vital questions facing all of us as Scots and also as global citizens.”

NTS has asked six different artists - Adura Onashile, Nima Séne, Alan McKendrick, Angus Farquhar, Nic Green, and Leonie Rae Gasson - to create pieces of work for Dear Europe, which will be staged at Glasgow warehouse venue SWG3 during the final hours of Britain’s membership of the EU on 29 March and run into the early hours of the post-Brexit era.

Meanwhile yet-to-be-named offices in Glasgow will become home to three chilling new plays, set in 2040, which will explore how “technology is becoming more embedded in our daily lives and weaponised in ever more terrifying ways.”

The Panopticon, which is being adapted for the stage by Fagan, was named one of the best debut novels of 2012. The stage version will be launched at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh next November.

Published in 2010, Kay’s memoir Red Dust Road charts a journey that begins as a Glasgow schoolgirl when she realises her skin is a different colour to mother and father.

The book explores Kay’s experiences of growing up as a mixed-race Scot and her effors to find first her Highland mother and then her Nigerian father around 20 years later.

Playwright Tanika Gupta, who was born in London the year after her parents arrived from Calcutta in India, will be adapting Kay’s book for the NTS production of Red Dust Road, which will premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August.

Kay said: “NTS has actually had Red Dust Road on its books pretty much since it came out in 2010. It has gone through several possible lives since then, but it’s great that it’s now actually going to happen.

“There have already been big long meetings and discussions about it and I’ll have a say on who is cast in it. I’m kind of advising on it, but I didn’t want to adapt it, because I’m too close to it. I’m not one of these writers that needs to control everything. I want to be surprised by what Tanika Gupta focuses on. She’s a great writer and I’m really excited about the approach of the whole team.

“It’ll be really interesting to see how the brought is back to life on stage. I’m not too worried about how accurate it feels - I’m more worried that it feels authentic. It’s more important that it’s good theatre and it engages everybody.”

Wylie added: "What Scottish theatre can do like no other national culture is tackle the big questions of our times, with a unique sense of joy and a love of communal celebration.

“Touring remains at the heart of our commitment to audiences across Scotland and beyond. In 2019, 20 productions will be touring to theatre venues, schools, community centres, and pop up performance spaces.

“We will also take the work of Scottish artists throughout the UK and internationally to New York, Montreal, Virginia, Kentucky and Lisbon.

“We are proud to be without walls - we have partnerships in our DNA, and we aim for our collaborations to be as diverse as Scotland’s ever changing populace.”