Renaissance play in regal settings

A team of scholars is to revive a play that wowed Scottish audiences nearly 500 years ago.

Researchers are recreating a lost version of Scotland’s oldest stage drama - The Satire of the Three Estates - which will play to audiences at two historic settings in June.

The epic drama by Sir David Lyndsay dates from 1540, but no text survives of the earliest version of the play.

Drawing on ancient records

Researchers are studying a variety of sources to piece together the text for what will be the first performance of this lost version of the play since 1540.

Background research will also draw on old records of the play’s performance, literary and historical analysis, archaeological remains and architectural studies.

Summer performances

Summer performances will be staged in Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle, which contains the most complete and best preserved Renaissance palace in the UK.

The shows will recreate a production of the play that took place in Linlithgow in 1540 as well as a longer version of the play staged at Cupar, Fife, in 1552 and at Edinburgh in 1554.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and involves scholars from the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Lincoln and Southampton as well as Oxford Brookes University.

Pivotal moment in Scottish history

Written shortly before the Reformation, the play portrays the social tensions at a pivotal moment in Scottish history.

Researchers say the timing of the production is significant as it coincides with another crucial period as Scotland prepares to decide its constitutional future.

Just as Lyndsay, on the eve of the Reformation, sought to investigate Scottish national identity and promote social reform in his play, Scotland once more finds itself at a crossroads as it heads towards the Independence Referendum of 2014. People are asking once again those questions that are raised in stark clarity in The Three Estates. What does it mean to be Scottish? Where does political and moral authority lie in Scotland – in its leaders or its people? What should Scotland’s relationship be with the rest of these islands, with Europe and with trans-national organisations? If Scotland is to become an independent nation, which aspects of its culture and constitution should it keep and which should it get rid of?

Professor Greg WalkerSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures,

It will be an amazing experience to see The Three Estates performed once again in the authentic and spectacular settings of Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle.“It will also be fascinating to see the play performed by characters in costumes inspired by the details on the carved wooden medallion Stirling Heads, bringing the court of James V to life in a unique way.

Lorna EwanHead of Visitor Experience at Historic Scotland