Highlands & Islands

New twist in row over support for Highlands theatre

Laura Pasetti. Pic: Charioteer Theatre
Image caption Laura Pasetti is artistic director of Forres-based Charioteer Theatre

A playwright has said "having a pop" at an artistic director of a Moray theatre group while criticising funding and support for the arts had not been wise.

George Gunn did not directly name Laura Pasetti in his attack on the demise of theatre in the Highlands and Islands.

He described her as the wife of an RAF Lossiemouth pilot who had set up a group to "indulge" her interest in Samuel Beckett.

Ms Pasetti's company Charioteer Theatre has spoken out over the criticism.

It said she was a skilled practitioner and teacher and a member of the Piccolo Theatre of Milan.

Thurso-based Mr Gunn has written more than 20 plays, including for radio, and ran the Grey Coast Theatre Company until it folded in 2010 due to a lack of funds.

In an article for the Scottish Review magazine earlier this month, he expressed his dismay at the collapse of theatre companies, including national Gaelic language theatre group Tosg and also Theatre Hebrides.

He criticised how public bodies chose to fund and promote theatre.

In a statement, Forres-based Charioteer Theatre said it was clear Mr Gunn was passionate about theatre.

But it added that some of his criticism had "trivialised" Ms Pasetti's work.

'Under-valued'

Charioteer Theatre's statement said: "It is clear that George is deeply sincere in his passion for theatre.

"As fellow artists struggling to sustain our own fledgling theatre company, we fully appreciate how devastating the closure of his Grey Coast theatre must be, likewise that of Tosg, which provided an essential and much needed vessel in which to preserve and develop a most fundamental element of any culture - its own language.

"Any closures like this make us all feel dispirited, disappointed, under-valued and injured."

The statement went onto add: "Our artistic director, Laura Pasetti, whose professional credibility was trivialized by George, is a prestigious, well-known and highly respected actor, teacher and director in her own right.

"She is a skilled practitioner and teacher in the numerous genres and disciplines of theatre, as well as being a core member of the teaching team at the Piccolo Theatre of Milan."

'Cultural heritage'

Mr Gunn told the BBC Scotland news website that his criticism of Ms Pasetti had not been "wise", but added that his concerns about Highlands theatre remained.

He said: "Laura Pasetti is someone I know and respect.

"On reflection having a pop at her - although I didn't name her - was not the wisest thing to have done."

He added: "My point was - and still is - that there is a difference between theatre made in the Highlands by people who happen to live here and theatre from the Highlands made by people whose identity and cultural history is of and from the place.

"Any work by any company I personally value, but it seems to me that indigenous Highland theatre-making is not valued and without positive discrimination it will be exposed to the taste, particularity and prejudices of arts managers and funders.

"Also no young Highland actor can expect much training in how theatre can be made from their own cultural heritage or employment in the Highlands and Islands as things stand."

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