Nicola McCartney (FRSA)


Nicola McCartney is a Scotland-based playwright, director and dramaturge. Originally from Belfast, she trained as a director at Charabanc Theatre Company, Belfast and the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow/ G&J Productions. She was Artistic Director of Glasgow-based new writing theatre company, lookOUT from 1992 to 2002. In 1996 she directed the national tour of TRAINSPOTTING by Irvine Welsh adapted by Harry Gibson (1996) for the Citizens Theatre/ G&J Productions. As a playwright her work includes: LAUNDRY, EASY, HOME, CAVE DWELLERS (7:84 Scotland Theatre Co.), HERITAGE (Traverse), CONVICTIONS and 1 IN 5 (Tinderbox), UNDERWORLD (Frantic Assembly), LIFEBOAT (Catherine Wheels) which won the TMA/ Equity Best New Show For Children & Young People 2002), A SHEEP CALLED SKYE, (National Theatre of Scotland), BOG PEOPLE and MELMOTH THE WANDERER (Big Telly), STANDING WAVE:DELIA DERBYSHIRE IN THE 60S (Tron Theatre/ Reeling and Writhing), CRAZY JANE (Birds of Paradise). In 2019 she wrote HOW NOT TO DROWN (Thick SKin/Traverse/ Tron Theatre) with Dritan Kastrati which won a Fringe First and which will tour in 2021. Nicola has worked as a dramaturg  for a range of companies including Playwrights Studio Scotland, Tron Theatre, Theatre Hebrides, Birds of Paradise, Traverse Theatre, NTS, Stellar Quines,the Edinburgh International Festival 2005 and Vanishing Point. Nicola was one of the inaugural Associate Playwrights of the Playwrights Studio Scotland. She was a recipient of a Creative Scotland Award 2003 to work on her first novel. Nicola has written extensively for radio, TV and film. She has been Writer in Residence at University of Ulster and Shetland Arts amongst others. She is also a practitioner of Applied Theatre working with a range of client groups including refugees and asylum seekers, those within the criminal justice system within UK and USA and young people in the care systems in various countries. She is ambassador of the Traverse Theatre flagship public engagement project, Class Act, pioneering it in India, Russia and Ukraine since 2004. She was recently lead artist on National Theatre Scotland's "Care in Contemporary Scotland", and collaborated with care experienced people and the paid and unpaid workforce within Scotland's care system for children and young people to make the film, "Holding/ Holding On" which she scripted.  In 2018 she was a recipient of a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Olwen Wymark Award for encouragement of new playwriting in the UK.  Nicola is a Fellow of the of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Responsibilities & affiliations


Undergraduate teaching

Writing for Theatre: An Introduction )Hons)

Contemporary British Drama (Hons)

Time and Space of Performance (Hons)

Postgraduate teaching

Programme leader MSc Playwriting

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I currently co-supervise  PhDs within English Literature, but also a number of interdisciplinary PhDs in collaboration with DELC, Law and Education. I am open to PhDs which have a focus on playwriting, dramaturgy,  theatre & performance studies and/ or applied theatre practice. 

For a PhD focused on Playwriting, please apply through Creative Writing. 

Current PhD students supervised

Sofia Nakou - PhD Law - Narrative Identity and asylum seekers within UK asylum system and in applied theatre (co-supervisor)

Katherine Hawthorne - PhD European Theatre - Contextualising Liveness: A Comparative Study of Digitally Distributed, Mediated and Located Performances in Edinburgh and Berlin, 2016-19. Funded by the Wolfson Foundation (co-supervisor)

RachelJae-Miller Chung - PhD English Literature -  Violence and all-female casting in contemporary productions of Shakespearean drama (co-supervisor)

Argyris  Karapitsanis - PhD Education (p/t) - Learning through Process Drama in Museums and Galleries ( co-supervisor)

Research summary

Playwriting and dramaturgy

Contemporary British, Scottish and Irish playwriting. 

Contemporary Russian Theatre.

Applied Theatre practice specifically with refugees and asylum seekers, children and young people, and care experienced people. Conflict resolution through applied theatre practice. 


Project activity

A new commission for Grid Iron to be produced at Edinburgh International Festival 2022 - to be announced

Hairst/ Harvest - a new collaboration with Hannah Lavery and Uma Nada-Rajah and developing with National Theatre of Scotland, on Scotland's relationship to Empire

Seven Devils - a new play developing in collaboration with Playwrights Studio Scotland and Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh on faith and supported by Creative Scotland

Where the People Are - a new play developed with support from The Peggy Ramsay Foundation

Follow the Moskva - a new play commissioned by A Play A Pie and A Pint, Glasgow, on the White House siege, Moscow 1991

Contributing a chapter on Scottish playwriting since 1990 for new Oxford Companion to Contemporary Scottish Theatre, to be published in 2024


View all 14 publications on Research Explorer

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MFA Playwriting  at The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art/ Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

MA Playwriting, The University of Manchester