EDWIN STIVEN - PORTFOLIO OF WORKS
In 2002, he wrote “The Play o the Wather” (click for script), a translation/adaptation of John Heywood’s 16th Century comedy, reworked and rewritten in Scots.
This work had its first outing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2002, where it was hailed by the critics as….
“….a ribald and raucously fun play, with more than a hint of modern relevance, performed with infectious, unbridled joy.” (THE SCOTSMAN)
“Stiven’s adaptation has such energy and humour (the song cheerfully listing 40 different words for rain is particularly winning) that listening to it [the Scots] is intoxicating.” (THE GUARDIAN)
“…this magical, life-engaging version of a play, so cleverly made of the people and for the people, is filled with commitment well delivered to the audience” (THE EDINBURGH GUIDE)
In 2003, after its previous popular acclaim, The Play o the Wather was revived at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. Joyce McMillan, reviewing the production for THE SCOTSMAN, wrote of the first night production in the Traverse…
“…it is a tribute to the sheer poetic energy and intellectual passion of Edwin Stiven’s new Scots version – punctuated by increasingly hysterical rhyming weather reports from a fraught Scottish television weather-woman – that it manages to transform the piece into a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes of 21st century theatre, borrowing a generous slice of earthy vitality and lyricism from the popular mediaeval theatre of both Scotland and England, but carrying its own contemporary sense of urgency about what selfish humankind can do to the weather, given half a chance.”
Eddie Stiven began writing for the Stage with the much admired, and frequently revived, “Tamlane”, first performed by the newly formed Theatre Alba in the early Eighties.
David Campbell, reviewing the play for THE SCOTSMAN on its first proper outing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1981, wrote…
“Glamourie is the old Scots word to describe enchantment. A magical spell is cast in the open air by a burning fire under the trees with a big moon hanging in the sky, by this superlative translation of the Ballad ‘Tamlane’ into drama.
Misty figures move mysteriously along the dusky horizon and in an effortless mell of music, movement and sturdy articulate Scots, the tale of Tamlane’s thraldom ‘Tae the Queen of Elfinland’ unfolds.
At the witching midnight hour, the play commences in a marvellous natural grassy amphitheatre. The director, musicians and cast are to be congratulated on the imaginative boldness of this production which should keep all lovers of mysteries and secret subconscious truths from their beauty sleep for one and a half hours of wonderful dream.”
Tamlane was revived later that year in Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre.
Tamlane at the Old Traverse in the West Bow.
Line drawing by Ricky Demarco.
The Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh staged it again in 1987.
In 1999, it was performed once again at the Edinburgh Fringe by Theatre Alba. Ninian Dunnett reviewing it for THE SCOTSMAN wrote, “…Eddie Stiven’s text is deftly structured, full of spiky touches and a wholehearted emotional fire which builds to a stirring climax.”
Since his inaugural production of Tamlane, Stiven has written several other full-length plays for the Stage and Radio. These are…
“The Illuminati” was a commission for Highland Youth Theatre in 1984, on which Stiven was also a tutor/director, had a highly successful tour through the Highlands over that summer. The play tells of the conversion of a pagan society to Christianity, and draws particularly on the mission of St Columba in the 6th Century.
In 1986, Stiven was commissioned by Perth Repertory Company to write a Theatre in Education piece for a tour of Perthshire Schools. This was an adaptation, in comic/pantomime style of Sir Walter Scott’s “The Fair Maid of Perth.” The tour was highly successful and enthusiastically received by a large audience of young people.
In 1988, Stiven returned to the theme of Celtic Legends set in a historical context with “The Cauldron”, a quest tale set in 6th Century Scotland. It was produced by the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh.
Quentin Cooper wrote of it in THE STAGE, “Edwin Stiven’s play is not some Tolkinesque pseudo-mythology nor a comic-book version of Scottish legends, it is a drama drawing on the enormous power of broad Scots and Scotland’s folk-history.”
The success of The Cauldron at the Brunton, and its subsequent tour by Theatre Alba, led to a Scottish Arts Council commission for another play the following year. This was “Under the Passing Stars”, an adaptation of the old Celtic tale of “Daerdre of the Sorrows”.
Catherine Lockerbie, reviewing it for THE SCOTSMAN, wrote, “It is written in a high poetic Scots, ringing in the ears like the language of the great Ballads. Both the structure of the script and the staging turn tightly within a circle, a Celtic spiral. We peer in on a lost world.”
In 1998, Stiven was given a major commission by Scottish Youth Theatre to adapt the whole of the Celtic epic cycle, “An Tain Bo Cuailnge” (the Cattle Raid of Cooley) also known as “The Ulster Cycle”. This is the story that tells of the great conflict between Connaught and Ulster that arose over Queen Maeve’s coveting of the great brown bull known as “Donn Cuailnge”, and Ulster’s heroic defence by the great boy hero, Cuchulainn.
The Bull Raiders at Eden Court Theatre
It was produced as a pan-Highland project in five one-act plays, and finally as one five-act play at Eden Court Theatre in June 1998 under the title, “The Bull Raiders”. It was highly ambitious in its scope with a running time of over three hours, utilising a cast of ninety-three young actors and musicians. The setting is post-modern, with the traditional tales re-set into a futuristic world recovering from a nuclear holocaust.
Caroline Rham of THE ROSS-SHIRE JOURNAL described it as “Mad Max meets Celtic Myth in a magnificent sweep of drama and music traversing the whole spectrum of tragedy and comedy, life and death, and the corruption of power.”