The Spirit of Invergordon: Radio. Writer and Presenter. Producer, Louise Yeoman. Factual documentary for BBC Radio Scotland first broadcast December 2016, telling the story of the 1931 Royal Navy mutiny which – due to the austerity measures implemented by Ramsay MacDonald’s National Government -was caused by the the anger felt by RN ratings towards severe cuts in their pay. The response from the Lower Deck ended in an industrial strike which saw the Atlantic Fleet immobilised for two days. Through interviews, testimonies and the emergence of MI5 files, the production explored personal family stories in relation to the mutiny, looking at how it affected both those aboard ships and ashore when Naval and Intelligence authorities contrived to shift blame for a disastrous government decision on political agitation, ending in persecution, imprisonment and exile for those accused.
Factor 9: Theatre. Playwright and Producer, co-production Dogstar Theatre/ Profilteatern 2014. Directed by; Ben Harrison. Cast; Stewart Porter & Matthew Zajac. Composer; Pippa Murphy. Design; Emily James. Film design; Tim Reid. Funded by Creative Scotland and supported by Profilteatern in Sweden, Factor 9 premiered as part of the Umea 2014 European Capital of Culture programme and Profilteatern’s Festival of Horror and Art. The play is based on the testimonies of two haemophiliacs and their unanswered quest for justice and truth over five decades. Factor 9 and the contaminated blood scandal has its own dedicated page here.
Be sure to see it. It is an important play about a dark time. – Vasterbottens Kuriren ... Utterly convincing…ingenious and macabre…terrific performance and inventive direction…Outstanding – Edinburgh 49
The Captain’s Collection: Theatre. Playwright and Producer, Dogstar Theatre 2012. Directed by Alison Peebles. Musical Director; Jonnie Hardie. Cast; Alyth McCormack and Matthew Zajac. Musicians; Jonnie Hardie, Ingrid Henderson. Design; Ali McLaurin. The Captain’s Collection is a play based on the Jacobite music collection of Captain Simon Fraser of Knockie (1773-1852). As Captain Fraser refines his music for polite Regency society, he is visited by the ghosts and dreams dwelling within the pages of his collection. Originally commissioned by Highland Festival in 1999, The Captain’s Collection completed three Scottish tours and featured as part of the Celtic Connections 2012 international festival at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow. The music from the play was produced by Greentrax to high acclaim on the international traditional music scene. Developed from an idea by Bruce MacGregor, the play was further adapted by Hamish MacDonald and produced by Bruce into an international award-winning series on BBC Radio Scotland. (See The Captain’s Collection: Radio below).
Beautifully written…it dwelt inside the psychological ruins, the haunted dreams of this compromised, complex tortured Highlander…Lyrical, elegiac, yet darkly resolute and lightened by both music and wit – The Scotsman… Intertwined with live music from Fraser’s collection, the play maintains a fresh sense of energy and nostalgia…It isn’t the first time we’ve seen this play on the circuit and it probably won’t be the last – TV Bomb
Singing Far Into the Night: Theatre. Playwright. Produced by Mull Theatre, 2011. Directed by Alastair MacCrone. Cast; Barry Hunter, Helen MacAlpine, Greg Powrie, Harry Ward. Design; Alicia Hendrick. Sound design; Martin Low. A play based around the events of the mutiny by the Royal Navy’s Atlantic Fleet at Invergordon in 1931, Singing Far Into the Night followed the fortunes and misfortunes of a naval rating and his radically politicised brother who edits a communist newspaper ashore. Based loosely around family stories and memories, as well as documented accounts of the mutiny, the play was performed throughout Scotland in a seven week tour.
…a new Scottish play with such a strong sense of political and historic perspective, and such a determination to do justice to forgotten aspects of history – The Scotsman…MacDonald has reclaimed a significant event and used it as a very timely metaphor of how, if you push people too far, they become radicalised enough to strike back – The Herald
The Final Whistle: Theatre, Work in Progress. A collaboration between Dogstar Theatre and Leev Theatre, one of Iran’s finest new writing companies, as part of British Council / Visiting Arts Contemporary Myths project. The companies first met at the Keil Theatre Festival in Germany where Dogstar were performing Matthew Zajac’s acclaimed The Tailor of Inverness. Following attendance at the Fadjr International Theatre Festival in Tehran in 2011 the companies had further opportunity to work together at Dartington Hall in Devon. A script sample from the week’s work – written by Hassan Madjouni – was read before a gathering of the Contemporary Myths project at Farnham Maltings. With strained diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran making it difficult to continue in recent years, a strong will nonetheless remains for the companies to work together on a future collaboration.
Seven Ages: Theatre. Playwright and Producer, Dogstar Theatre 2001, 2004, 2007. Directed by Matthew Zajac. Musical Director Jonnie Hardie (2004). Mary Ann Kennedy (2007). Cast; Alyth McCormack and Matthew Zajac (2004 & 2007); Alyth McCormack and Hamish MacDonald (2001). Musicians; Jonnie Hardie and Mary MacMaster (2004 and 2007); Mary Ann Kennedy, Ingrid Henderson, Maggie MacDonald, Bruce MacGregor (2001). Design; David Ramsay.
Seven Ages is a series of seven short plays in one based on the universal concept of the seven ages of man: birth, discovery, love, war, wisdom, dotage and death. The stories range from a 17th century witch trial to the present-day streets of Scotland, meeting a wild collection of worthies along the way. The play was premiered as part of Highland Festival 2001 and undertook a Scottish tour in 2004. In 2007 Seven Ages travelled to Eastern Europe to feature in the Ternopil Theatre Festival in Ukraine, winning a Performance Ward and was performed at the L’viv Youth Theatre.
Terrifically well done…ambitious, stylish and very popular, and a timely reminder of the quality of performers all over Scotland – The Times...eloquent…bold…oracular…tragedy and comedy combined with poetic myth and the gritty realities of Highland History – The Herald…a timely reminder of how much Scottish theatre needs this strand of Highland-made work, with all its wild surrealism, structural anarchy, passionate lyricism and spiritual openness, if it’s to achieve its full potential – The Scotsman
The Heretic’s Tale: Theatre. Playwright and Producer, Dogstar Theatre 2006. Directed by Stephen Docherty. Cast; Annie Grace and Matthew Zajac. Musician; Amy Geddes. Design; David Ramsay. A play about 18th century religious heretic Elspeth Buchan. As Buchan gathers her faithful to the cause, expecting them to suffer the most outrageous privations with salvation as their reward, the cult are repelled by church authorities and magistrates throughout southwest Scotland. It is only fifty years after her death, and in the words of her most faithful acolyte Andrew Innes with his gruesome secret, that the story of the Buchanites can be told. Touring Scotland in 2006, The Heretic’s Tale was originally produced as part of the 4 day theatrical event The Story Nation.
This latest show from Inverness-based Dogstar is stuffed to the brim with incident, history, madness and fascination – The Scotsman
The Story Nation: Theatre and Site-specific. Playwright and Storyteller. For Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association, 2005. Directed by Stephen Docherty. Cast; Annie Grace and Matthew Zajac. Musical Director/Musician; Gillian Frame. Design; David Ramsay. Four new plays set in locations particular to the story; The Pilgrims Tale on St Ninian at Bladnoch Distillery; The Heretic’s Tale on Elspeth Buchan at Ellisland Farm; The Bard’s Tale on Robert Burns at the Brigend Theatre Dumfries; The Scunner’s Tale on Hugh MacDiarmaid at the Scott Hay Gallery in Langholm. The Story Nation was a four day event connected by a storytelling bus which visited twenty one sites and heard stories from the settlement of Christianity in Scotland to the scientific discoveries of James Clerk Maxwell.
Slainte Mhath Mr Capone: Theatre. Playwright. Producer Highland Festival, 2004. Directed by Peter Searles. Musical Director Jonnie Hardie. Cast: Jodie Campbell, Chris Craig, Annie Grace,Ron Emslie, Brian Smith. Music by Jonnie Hardie, Sandy Brechin and Annie Grace. A play as part of the Miniatures production featuring plays by George Gunn, Ewan Martin & Dave Smith and Ian Stephen, Slainte Mhath Mr Capone tells the story of a Scottish island distillery on the verge of bankruptcy which looks to Prohibition era America as a tonic for its financial woes, resulting in an invasion of gangsters into the Hebridean world. The play completed a Highland tour.
An entertaining concoction – The Herald
The Strathspey King: Theatre. Playwright and Producer, Dogstar Theatre 2003. Directed by Billy Riddoch and Hamish MacDonald. Musical Director Bruce MacGregor. Cast; Billy Riddoch. Musicians; Bruce MacGregor and Christine Hanson. Design; Robin Peoples. A play on the life of Scottish fiddler and composer James Scott Skinner (1843-1927). Looking back on his triumphs in advanced age, continuing to live by his motto ‘Talent does what it can, genius does what it must’, Skinner is compelled to view the turbulent moments as well as the triumphs of a life which saw him go from child musician to one of the world’s most popular entertainers. The Strathspey King embarked on a Scottish tour in 2003.
The Strathspey King: Radio. Developed from an idea by Bruce MacGregor, the play was originally a radio series written by Hamish MacDonald and produced by Bruce for BBC Radio Scotland, winning an international award at the Celtic Film and TV Festival 2001. Broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland and the BBC World Service.
MacDonald’s script and Riddoch’s ability makes sure we get a rich theatrical plaid…the production is skilfully composed to give an evening of musical theatre decorated with Scottish notes and full of universal human tunes – Edinburgh Guide…pleasingly written, fresh, funny and poignant..a fiercely intelligent portrayal – Evening Express …a colourful roller coaster of huge successes and dramatic failures…Billy Riddoch brought the character alive in vibrant and sympathetic fashion, fuelled by Hamish MacDonald’s sensitive and often very funny script…This was a piece of imaginative and beautifully realised music theatre honouring a flawed genius of Scottish music – The Herald
The Captain’s Collection: Theatre. 1999 and 2000, produced by Highland Festival . Playwright and performer. Director Alison Peebles. Dramaturg Gerry Mulgrew. Musical Director Jonnie Hardie. Cast; Alyth McCormack and Hamish MacDonald. Musicians; Jonnie Hardie, Brian MacAlpine, Rory Campbell (1999) and Iain MacFarlane (2000). Design by Iain Campbell. Additional Research, Chris Dillon. The original production of The Captain’s Collection (see above for 2012 production) toured as part of Highland Festival 1999 before embarking on a Scottish tour in 2000.
The Captains Collection: Radio: Developed from an idea by Bruce MacGregor, the play The Captain’s Collection was adapted into a radio series written by Hamish MacDonald and produced by Bruce for BBC Radio Scotland, winning an international award at the Celtic Film and TV Festival 2000. Broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland and the BBC World Service, The Captain’s Collection was submitted to the British Standards Council as an exemplary of BBC Radio Scotland’s best work.
The Captain’s Collection CD of commissioned music from the play; with music by Jonnie Hardie, Brian MacAlpine and Rory Campbell, and song by Alyth McCormack, was produced by Greentrax in 1999.
…Humorous, dark, emotional, historically factual and musically exhilarating – Press and Journal… …They’ll have a hard time topping this for entertainment, value, home-grown talent and ingenuity – Highland News
Redcoats; A Folktale for the 21st Century: Theatre. Playwright, Director, Performer. Produced by Alan MacKinnon for Faultline at the Highland Festival, 1998. From an idea by Alan MacKinnon. The Old Market Inn in Inverness is the setting for an otherworldly tale as the Sennachie appears each evening to relate the story of the hostelry and its sinister part in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Cloned from Highland DNA extracted from a bog-corpse, the storyteller has an eye in the past, present and future.
As lively as a well-drawn pint and as rich as the smoothest malt…there’s enough drama, comedy, song and shenanigans to make this a sparkling wee dram of originality for Highland Festival – Highland News …a deft blend of solid research, comic absurdity, withering satire, lyrical imagery and slick changes of mood and pace – Inverness Courier