Fiona Hyslop: Historic play still relevant today

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Next Friday, the stunning setting of Linlithgow Palace and Peel will provide the backdrop for the first ever full-length production of the 16th-century play A Satire of The Three Estates, an epic masterpiece of Scottish literature by Sir David Lyndsay.

The play is one of the finest examples of the use of Scots language. It explores the state of the Scottish nation after the death of James V and its themes continue to intrigue scholars today.

Staging the Scottish Court is a two-year research project which was recently awarded funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The play will be staged as part of a wider investigation of the Scottish Renaissance and Stuart Court, exploring issues of Scottish national identity.

Led by Professor Greg Walker and Dr Eleanor Rycroft of Edinburgh University, and Professor Thomas Betteridge of Brunel University, this exciting project has brought together academics from across the UK, with archaeologists and interpretation professionals along with filmmakers and theatre experts – a great example of partnership working. A community engagement programme is also under way in schools creating a valuable educational legacy.

A shorter version of the play, known as the Interlude, will also be performed in the Great Hall in Linlithgow Palace, and in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle. Linlithgow Palace was the setting for the first performance of Lyndsay’s seminal drama, in 1540, in the presence of King James V, and many of the play’s themes are still relevant today.

This project is taking place at another important period in Scottish history, as the country approaches next year’s independence referendum. Lyndsay’s epic play shone a light on Scottish society and national identity in the 16th century, asking how the country should move forward, and over four centuries later we are once again asking what direction we want for our country of Scotland.

• Fiona Hyslop is the Scottish Government’s Culture Secretary and SNP MSP for Linlithgow.