Glasgow Writers: David MacLennan
(Sadly David MacLennan died on 13th June, 2014. Neither he nor his remarkable achievements will be forgotten. David MacLennan Obituary, The Guardian )
One of the traits I admire in writers is a tendency to sing the praises of their fellow artists. In no-one is this trait more evident than David MacLennan, who, as producer/artistic director of Glasgow West End’s wonderful lunchtime theatre, A Play, A Pie and A Pint, takes delight in showcasing the work of many new writers.
David also continues to write, not least of all, the hilarious summer and winter pantomimes he creates with his long-standing compadre Dave Anderson.
David is always seeking new scripts and students on Theatre and Creative Writing Courses at universities in both Glasgow and Edinburgh are encouraged to submit their short plays. In March 2013 he introduced the inaugural Channel 4/Oran Mor Comedy Drama Award, performed as part of Glasgow’s International Comedy Festival. There were 253 submissions for the competition, which was open to both established writers and undiscovered talent. The Commission, by Steven Dick, a stand up comedian, was the winner. He was overjoyed at his success:
‘I’ve been a regular audience member at Oran Mor over the years. After every show I’d imagine how exciting it would be to be part of a production. This competition backed by Channel 4 and Oran Mor finally spurred me to sit down and write. That it has been chosen to be produced came as a huge surprise but I’m delighted and look forward to seeing it come to life on stage during the Glasgow comedy festival.’
David himself is a well established playwright. He co-founded the 7/84 Theatre Company in Scotland in 1973. 7/84 not only provided entertainment to theatre goers in town but brought thought-provoking shows to less affluent, outlying areas. For many people a 7/84 production may have been their first experience of live theatre.
He went on to found Wildcat Stage Productions in 1978. In the 80s and 90s this became one of Scotland’s most successful musical theatre companies. With Dave Anderson, David wrote fifty musicals for Wildcat, touring in Scotland and around the UK and Europe.
His vision remains expansive and he seeks and seizes every opportunity for fruitful collaboration. Since A Play, A Pie and A Pint was established in 2004, David has produced an impressive thirty eight new plays each year. He has also built partnerships with theatre companies, both in Scotland and internationally, and presenting International Seasons with the National Theatre of Scotland.
Recently I met David in Oran Mor and when I asked what he had been up to he reeled off an impressive list of collaborations and countries visited. These included working with the Traverse in Edinburgh, Ayr Gaiety, Perth, Dundee Rep, Brighton Rep and Bristol Tobacco Company. Plays which audiences first see at lunchtime theatre in Glasgow’s West End go on to be performed in Belfast, Brighton, Adelaide, New York, Philadelphia, Beirut and Amsterdam.
Not surprisingly works from A Play, A Pie and A Pint are performed at the Edinburgh Festival. Last year I went along to the Assembly Rooms to see Six and a Tanner, a play by Rony Bridges and peformed by David Hayman, which I reviewed when first performed at Oran Mor in 2007.
Currently David is co-producing three plays from China, following seasons of new work from Latin America and the Arab World, co-produced with the National Theatre of Scotland. He is also planning a season of plays as part of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games in 2014. When we met he was preparing to take off the following day for a meeting at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies to discuss this particular venture.
Both the scale and quality of David’s work with A Play, A Pie and A Pint have been recognised and his success widely applauded:
He won The Stage’s Producer of the Year Award 2013 – his acceptance speech highlights his attitude and his respect for the people he works with:
‘This award really belongs to the hundreds of writers, directors and actors who have made Oran Mor such a powerhouse of new writing. This year we are producing 38 new plays – many from Scotland but some from China – and we will be mounting our 300th production in nine years. I am delighted to get recognition from the province of London’
He was also awarded the Cats Whiskers award for Outstanding Achievement 2012, from The Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland. An ‘occasional’ award, only handed out for remarkable achievement. David received it in recognition of having produced an unbelievable 240 plays at Oran Mor and for his creation of “a magnificent and completely unexpected explosion of freewheeling theatrical creativity in Scotland”
This ‘explosion of freewheeling theatrical creativity’ continues to delight audiences in Glasgow. I can think of a no more enjoyable way to pass a lunchtime than at a performance in Oran Mor.
It was wonderful and fitting to see David acknowledged as having ‘transformed the Scottish Theatre scene’. His acceptance speech amused his old friend and collaborator Dave Anderson, and no doubt others present, when he commented that the award: ‘made a fellow feel like the dog’s bollocks.’
And rightly so – David MacLennan’s inspiration, drive, commitment and immense love of theatre have made an incredible mark on Glasgow and way beyond. Not only has an astonishing volume of quality entertainment been created but opportunities have been afforded many writers, some of whom have seen their work performed for the very first time at Oran Mor.
(David is married to the actor Juliet Cadzow. )
Pat Byrne, September, 2013.
This section: People: Local Glasgow West End Characters, writers, Writing
- David MacLennan
- Maggie Graham
- Brian Hamill
- Paul McCafferty
- Louise Welsh
- Dave Anderson
- Ellen McAteer
- Frankie Gault
- Elaine Reid
- Allan Wilson
- Leela Soma
- John Hamilton May
- Denise Mina
- John Dingwall
- Paul McQuade
- Goldie by Pat Byrne
- Glasgow Writers: Tom Leonard
- Govanhill; no single-ends by Ian R. Mitchell
- Tarnished Jewels, U.S.A.’s Public Lands Under Trump by Ian R. Mitchell
- Reading Palms by Stephen Watt
- Poetry: Lahore, I am coming by Rizwan Akhtar
- Autumn Makes Me Sad by Muriel Baker
- A Story for International Day of Peace by Katie Stepek
- Three Haibun by Robin Lloyd-Jones
- The Indian Shawl a poem by Muriel Baker
- Plum Stone Throat a poem by Jen Gray
- Crohn’s or: How I’m Learning to Stop Worrying and Love the Bag by Calum Maclean
- Autumn Visit to USA by Leela Soma
- Lochwinnoch – a poem by Lindsey Stewart
- Living in Shoes – poem by Gail Winters
- The Big Chair – Autumn Voices – Robin Lloyd-Jones
- Corn Dollies by Mary Irvine
- Chinese Autumn by Mary Irvine
- The Last Leaf – a poem for Autumn by Catriona Malan
- Leela Soma: ‘Vermillion’ a poem for Autumn