Loch Ness Monster myth to inspire new Scottish musical with environmental message

It is the mythical beast that put a Highland beauty spot on the world map and spawned its own tourist industry.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 2:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 6:12 pm
A Loch Ness Monster musical is in development in Scotland.
A Loch Ness Monster musical is in development in Scotland.

Now the Loch Ness Monster is set to inspire a new Scottish musical – which will see the centuries old mystery brought up to date to explore how climate change is affecting wildlife.

Billed as “the story of a brave young girl and a notorious mythical underwater creature,” Nessie will focus on an unlikely friendship between the creature and an environmentally-conscious youngster.

Created by Shonagh Murray, co-founder of female-led theatre company Fearless Players, Nessie is expected to explore how the numerous reported sightings of the monster have had an impact on a small Highland town, and the threats to the local environment and creatures living in Loch Ness. Puppetry is expected to play a key role in the production.

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One of the best known images of the Loch Ness Monster. Picture: Keystone/Getty Images

Nessie is one of three shows being developed by two leading theatres under a new initiative to turn their stages into a home for “great Scottish musicals” every year after a selection process involving industry experts like singer-songwriter Barbara Dickson, Deacon Blue star Ricky Ross, playwright David Greig, composer Howard Goodall and producer Kenny Wax.

They were selected following an open call for submissions for a new Musical Commissioning Hub launched last November by Capital Theatres, operators of the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, and Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

The Light Travels, by Niloo-Far Khan, is a time-travel tale transporting audiences between modern-day Edinburgh and a huge suffragette protest on Princes Street in 1909 to examine if women of colour have been written out of the movement’s history.

Tommy Antonio’s musical Rebel will focus on the “forgotten hero” of the 1745 Jacobite Rising – Anna Mackintosh, who raised up more than 500 clansmen to fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie while her husband fought for the British Government.

Shonagh Murray is developing 'Nessie' with the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh and PItlochry Festival Theatre.

An official announcement about Nessie states: “Away from the cities, the cars and the noise, there’s a wee town with a history of being witness to just about every sighting of the Loch Ness Monster ever reported.

“Despite fleeting glimpses of the creature, Mara – a wee local girl with a passion for nature – is the first to actually meet the monster.

"With temperatures rising, tourism increasing and a plot afoot at the local hydro plant, it’s up to Mara, Nessa and their water creature friends to keep safe the loch and its inhabitants and maybe even figure out where Nessa comes from.

"Nessie is a story of friendship, danger and of fins but, more importantly, of following your heart.”

Murray said: “Nessie’s existed until now only in my head, some voice memos and a notebook, so I'm so excited that it'll be taking its first steps.

"I've been in a constant state of buzzing disbelief since Nessie was selected, but it's been an absolute joy working with Capital Theatres and Pitlochry.

"I'm so grateful for their support and shared enthusiasm in bringing Nessie to life.”

Khan said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic about receiving the commission to develop a new musical about women of colour defining their activism and identity.”

Antonio said: “After a year like we’ve had it feels incredible to be able to get a piece of musical theatre on its feet, especially a story that I think’s important to tell right now.”