How the independence referendum has brought a host of new drama


The referendum debate has been igniting a newfound passion for political debate among ordinary Scots. But for the more artistic types it has also provided the inspiration for a new spate of creativity.

With many writers, comedians and musicians putting an imaginative spin on the issues and arguments put forward in the referendum, a host of new political drama has been coming to life.

From musical theatre and horror, to romantic comedy we take a look at how drama and comedy are being used to try to shed some light, as well as light relief, on the referendum debate.

The 'Rom Com'

United Queendom

An online comedy series, produced by young film maker Bob Denham, it imagines the issues in the referendum debate as domestic squabbles between a young gay couple - one partner English, the other Scottish- on the verge of a breakup. With a trailer already released, the four videos will be launched on Youtube over the next few weeks.

Image copyright Bob Denham Films

Denham says his motivation for making the four-part video series was to try to get young people, particularly those in the rest of the UK, engaged in the Scottish referendum, with each video giving the viewer a chance to decide if the couple should break up of stay together.

"The UK is a marriage but only one partner gets to decide if they stay together. This is a chance for those who can't have their say either because they are too young or because they don't live in Scotland."

The Musical

Now's the Hour

The subject of a BBC Scotland documentary, Now's the Hour was the creation of the Scottish Youth Theatre who brought together a group of 15-18 year olds to create their own referendum-themed musical.

Writer David Cosgrove based much of the play on the ideas and suggestions of the young people, tasking them with writing a letter to their future selves which he incorporated into the final script.

The devised drama performed in January and recently reprised at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, uses monologues and music to explore young people's hopes, fears, and dreams for Scotland in the future whether independent or remaining as part of the UK, and Scotland's national identity.

The theatrical offerings

The Great Yes, No, Don't Know, Show

This collection of five-minute plays were submitted by performers and writers from all walks of life in response to a call from the National Theatre of Scotland to create a short independence-themed drama. All performed in front of live audiences and streamed online over 24 hours, the mini-dramas created by anyone, for an audience of everyone, are still available to view online.

Image copyright Holly Wedgwood


Playing as part of the Arches Referendum Festival, and created and starring Glasgow director Rob Drummond, it is being billed as a theatrical panel debate over three acts, with its five-night run ending with a performance on the day of the referendum itself.

Pitiless Storm

Unashamedly pro-independence, David Hayman stars in this one-man-show playing a middle-aged Labour politician who starts to come round to the idea of Scottish independence as he considers, on the eve of the referendum, what exactly the winds of change might bring.

The James Plays

While writer Rona Munro argues her historical trilogy telling the tales of the Scottish monarchs - James I, James II and James III - were not inspired by the referendum, others argue it is impossible to view the plays and not consider them in the context of Scotland's current political climate.

First shown as part of Edinburgh's International Festival, the plays will continue their mid-September run through the date of the referendum and thereafter.


Set in summer 2015, it imagines that Scotland has just voted for independence with the play's main protagonist, played by Gabriel Quigley, taking on the mantle of Scottish foreign secretary - a role specially created for a newly independent Scotland.

The character and audience get a chance to reflect on what relationship the UK and Scotland would have, while a newly-appointed political aide from Northern Ireland offers insight from across the Irish sea.

I'm With the Band

Focusing on how the independence questions might impact on England, Northern Ireland and Wales, I'm With the Band imagines the union as an four- piece indie rock band made up of an English keyboard player, a Welsh bass player, a Northern Irish drummer and Scottish guitarist - who is considering going solo.

By Welshman Tim Price, and produced in collaboration with the Wales Millennium Centre, the show was one of last year's Edinburgh Fringe offerings, before being taken to London and embarking on a UK tour in late 2013.

The comedic take

The Frederendum

Playing at the Edinburgh Fringe, Fred MacAulay self-titled performance was billed as a show for those "not looking for radical debate and thoughtful insight into independence".

Put together with the aim of making sure that Scotland keeps its sense of humour in the midst of such hardcore political debate, the show opened to overwhelming positive reviews, although some felt that by staying politically neutral the material felt 'safe'.

The Referendum Review Show

The political sketch show's witty take on the independence debate was such as success that it sold out at both its May run and stint at the Edinburgh Fringe, with critics lauding a piece that gives an equally hard time to both sides of the debate.

With comedy trio Graham de Banzie, Alex Cox and Ewan Park having added two additional dates to the line up, The Brand New Referendum Review Show is coming to Glasgow's Southside on Wednesday 10 September with brand new sketches and music looking at the issues and consequences surrounding the big debate.

Aye Right? How No?

Listed as The Comedy Countdown to the Referendum it has already enjoyed a successful run in Glasgow's The Stand and the Edinburgh Fringe.

With three dates (two in September, and one in October) still up for grabs hosts Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister hope that their constantly changing variety of act - which has included musical duo Whyte & McKay, Lady Gaga parody Lady Alba, and stand-ups Fred MacAulay and Eleanor Morton - will keep audiences entertained until polling day and beyond.

Radio drama

Dividing the Union

Produced by BBC Radio 4 and Radio Scotland, witty drama Dividing the Union imagines what the discussions between Alex Salmond and David Cameron might be the morning following a "Yes" vote.

With Still Game actor and comedian Greg Hemphill playing the part of Scotland's First Minister and English actor Greg Wise portraying the Prime Minster, the two tackle face-to-face negotiations between Scotland and the rest of the UK on everything from the currency, nuclear weapons and even the BBC.

Yes or No

Although written by playwright Alan Bissett, a supporter of Scottish independence, 'Yes and No' is a politically neutral piece targeting the primary school age audience whose parents will be voting.

Telling the story of a young girl struggling to understand why her parents have such strong - and opposing- views on the referendum, it aims to break down the issue of political conflict in the family dynamic, as well as offering an engaging and light-hearted take on the debate.

And the Horror?

White Settlers

Image copyright White Settlers Ltd

White Settlers, in which an English couple are attacked by locals after moving to the Scottish borders, made waves earlier this year after being dubbed the "Scottish Referendum horror film".

But despite the media traction that the referendum link has generated, the film's writer Ian Fenton fears it is making people "nervous" and might harm the film's success.

Fenton argues his film has "nothing to do with the referendum", saying that the idea for the plot came about back in 2003 and so was not written with the referendum debate in mind. He describes the films release date - just a few weeks before the vote - as "a happy coincidence".

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