A NEW musical, charting 1200 years of Scottish history, with a cast of eight playing a multitude of roles accompanied by music and song, and all in less than an hour?

Noisemaker – Glasgow-based theatre writing duo Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour - like a challenge, which is just as well.

“There was a bit of a gauntlet laid down by A Play A Pie and A Pint for us,” grins Scott, who is originally from East Kilbride.

Glasgow Times:

“We were delighted to do it though, and it’s a big celebration of Scotland and its people and places to round off the current season at Oran Mor.”

Scots, the musical in question, will run as part of the west end venue’s lunchtime theatre series from June 27 until July 2, bringing the spring/summer programme to a lively, uplifting end.

“It is quite different from the kind of work we normally do, but we have seen many PPPs and know the format, the speed of rehearsal – and working with Jemima Levick, the artistic director, is really exciting for us,” adds Claire.

Scott agrees. “Sometimes having certain constraints, like the size of the venue weirdly provokes you to be more creative. We wanted it to be a full and realised musical, and having to have a smaller cast than we’re used to, and a smaller space, did influence the style of storytelling and the music within it. It was a joy to write for PPP.”

With a "Horrible-Histories-meets-Reduced-Shakespeare-Company" vibe, Scots is a fast-paced, energetic, silly and clever potted history of Scotland, from the first moments the Picts and Gaels came together, right up to the present day. Historical figures, such as Kenneth MacAlpin who was King of Alba, rub shoulders with present-day politicians, including Monica Lennon MSP, the driving force behind Scotland’s free period products bill.

The story is told through a “unique lens”, says Scott, although he and Claire refuse to say more. “We don’t want to give too much away,” they say, mysteriously.

Claire adds: “We did a lot of research – it’s funny, because you think you know a lot about Scottish history but linking it all together is difficult. So finding out what happened when and putting it all in order has been fun.”

Scott laughs: “Of the two of us, the ginger-haired one with the surname McKenzie is the non-Scottish one – Claire comes from Newcastle, so she was approaching it from a different perspective. I learned a lot about my country too. And as well as the big, iconic moments, we wanted some less-told stories.

“There were times as a country that we were really leading the charge in terms of equality and what is right, and other points when we really lagged behind on that. So we look at all of that, and what it is to be Scottish - what is our identity?”

With talk of another referendum on Scottish independence on the horizon, it feels like the right time for a musical examining national identity, but Claire and Scott are quick to emphasise this is not a political piece.

“These are human stories, as we shift through moments of our history, which look at what our country has been, what it is now and where are we going, and it seems we are still in the middle of that question,” says Scott.

“The cast are amazing, including four students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who have been thrown into the deep end. They all have to wear so many different hats (and crowns) and they are absolutely brilliant.”

Glasgow Times:

Noisemaker celebrate 10 years in the business this year.

Founded in 2012 by actor/writer Scott and musician/composer Claire when they were students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, they have enjoyed considerable success throughout the UK and internationally, working with a vast range of companies, including The National Theatre of Scotland, Dundee Rep, The Citizens Theatre, Channel 4 Films and the BBC. Their production, Little Red and the Wolf, won Best Production for Children and Young People at the UK Theatre Awards in 2016, and in 2017, they wrote the ‘Scottish half’ of an epic musical theatre collaboration called Atlantic, a joint project with RCS and the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Chicago’s Northwestern University.

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In 2018, the duo won a Scottish SME Business Award for their innovation as a writing partnership – the first time an arts organisation had been acknowledged in the category – and a year later, they were back in America for projects in Chicago and New York. Most recently, Noisemaker helped to bring the iconic Scottish comic strip Oor Wullie to life on stage.

“It’s feels like a long way from doing student shows in the basement of the Arches,” smiles Scott.

“We have grown, as a pair, and musical theatre as a form in Scotland has grown too.

"We love working in America - there is a huge love for Scottish storytelling in the States. We have had an exciting 10 years, and we just want to keep working with one foot over there, and one foot here, making and sharing our stories.”

Scots is at Oran Mor from Monday, June 27 until Saturday, July 2. Visit playpiepint.com for tickets and more information.