Scottish theatre in the spotlight at NLS

Scotland's largest library is offering visitors a fantastic opportunity to view theatrical props and memorabilia linked with some of the country's best-known celebrities including Alan Cumming, David Tennant, Tony Roper, John Byrne and many more.

The National Library of Scotland's 'Curtain Up: 40 Years of Scottish Theatre' exhibition, which runs from December 19 to May 3, will celebrate the country's rich and vibrant theatrical tradition.

The exhibition covers the period from the groundbreaking work of the 7:84 Scotland theatre company in the 1970s to the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland in 2006.

Among a wealth of theatre archives, props and costumes, the centrepiece of the exhibition will be John Byrne's original 'pop-up book' stage set for 'The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil', which was first performed in 1973. Byrne, currently working on the set design for Edinburgh Festival Theatre production 'Off Kilter', dropped by the Library earlier today (Friday) to view his creation ahead of tomorrow's exhibition opening.

The Paisley-born artist and playwright - whose work includes the play 'The Slab Boys' and successful TV series 'Tutti Frutti', and visual art includes album covers for The Beatles and Billy Connolly - said: 'I was delighted to see the book, and I'm so glad to see that it's survived so well. It's a real memento of a dynamic time in Scottish theatre.'

Other highlights include Tony Roper's hand-written script for 'The Steamie', the gold 3-piece costume worn by Alan Cumming in 'The Bacchae' and a wealth of pictures of Scottish acting talent, including Siobhan Redmond, David Tennant, Brian Cox and Una McLean.

Tony Roper said: 'It is an honour to have my wee jotter containing the first play I ever attempted on display at the National Library. Thank you to all the performers and audiences who have made it such a magical event in my life.'

The exhibition will also include a billboard wall where the library will showcase promotional material from current productions from theatres across Scotland.

Sally Harrower, manuscripts curator at NLS said: 'Theatre, and particularly contemporary theatre, is perhaps not an area that people would think of when they think of the National Library of Scotland. However, the collections are quite extensive; in addition to the archives which the Library owns, we have important collections on deposit from the likes of the Traverse Theatre and Edinburgh International Festival. It's been a real treat going through these collections choosing material to show and stories to tell.'

Andrew Martin, curator of Modern Scottish Collections added: 'The exhibition takes us from the 1970s through to the present day, so it is important that we include materials highlighting what?s happening here and now in Scotland's theatres. So we've invited theatres to become a part of our exhibition by sending us flyers, posters or any other promotional materials for productions taking place between December and May.'

Production photographs, play scripts, correspondence, posters, programmes and archive footage will also be displayed, as well as published editions, reviews, advertising material for some of the key plays of the period. Productions represented will include 'The Steamie', 'Slab Boys', 'Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off' and 'Black Watch'.

An exciting events programme will run alongside the exhibition - full details on the National Library website at You can also follow the Library on Facebook (listed as 'National Library of Scotland') or Twitter (listed as 'natlibscot') for up-to-date news and events information.


National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge

Tel: 0131 623 3700


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18 December 2009

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