The premise is simple: this is theatre created by anyone, for an audience of everyone. The National Theatre of Scotland set up Five Minute Theatre to celebrate their fifth birthday in 2011. Since then the event has been run three times, drawing a total of 1570 performers (aged from 5 to 76) from 53 different countries, resulting in 325 unique pieces of theatre which have reached a total live audience of 5900, plus an online audience of more than 80,000.
Now you are invited to get involved in its fourth year. Although the NTS is not a political body itself, this year the theme is – you’ve guessed it – independence. The people of Scotland and beyond are called to have their creative say heard in the most important decision-making process in this country’s modern history: the Scottish independence referendum.
The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know, Five Minute Theatre Show will be co-curated by David Greig (The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Glasgow Girls, The Yes/No Plays) and David MacLennan (A Play, A Pie and A Pint series at Òran Mór, Glasgow).
David Greig explains that “The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know, Five Minute Theatre Show will be an extraordinary celebration of democratic and creative spirit in Scotland.” All people from all walks of life are invited to propose a piece for the event, and to have their voice heard. Greig emphasises that “crucially, it’s a chance for everyone to contribute, not just a political or artistic elite.” MacLennan shares Greig’s enthusiasm for the intrinsically democratic and discursive aspects of the project: “I hope this show will provoke, entertain and bring Scots together at this momentous moment in our shared history, and whatever your view at the end of it will help you to understand those who don’t share it.”
The project welcomes experienced, amateur and experience-free theatre makers, producers, writers, designers, devisers, musicians, directors and performers, of all ages and political persuasions. Whether you plan to vote Yes, No or you Don’t Know, you’re invited. No set skills are required. The only qualifications you will need are a good idea and some dramatic flair!
And then, over a 24 hour period in June, the hundreds of plays, skits, sketches, rants, songs, polemics and poems will be pulled together. On this day the NTS will be showcasing work made by groups all over the country, as well some pieces from some of Scotland’s crème-de-la-crème in writing and performing talents. MacLennan describes The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know, Five Minute Theatre Show as having a similarly ambitious reach to 7:84’s touring production of The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil when it visited village halls in the hidden corners of the Highlands and Islands in 1973.
Greig also describes the project as an exciting and valuable modern appropriation of last century’s Scottish culture: it will take the Scottish Variety tradition and propel it into the internet age. The numerous live hubs around the country and beyond will provide a vibrant and creative environment for lively debate and one-off performances, as well as thoughtful reflection.
“At this key moment in the nation’s history it’s a way for Scotland to speak to itself – not in formal political tones – but in a relaxed, rambunctious, celebratory and personal way.”