That there is no main-stage swan-song directed by National Theatre of
Scotland artistic director Vicky Featherstone in her final season before departing to run the Royal Court speaks volumes about her tenure over the last six years. Because it isn't any single production which has defined Featherstone's role. Rather, it is an all-embracing vision which has enabled artists to be bold and to think big while Featherstone has taken on a more diplomatic role protective of her charges. Indeed, it could be argued that Featherstone's own creative work has been neglected because of this. Of the season itself, if there is an element of baton-passing, with associate director Graham McLaren being particularly prolific, there is also a sense that theatre in Scotland has become increasingly exploratory. If the NTS has the resources to raise the bar, then the talent is already there to take advantage of it. It is an attitude the ongoing national embarrassment that is Creative Scotland could learn much from. Yes, there are classic plays, but they are not there to appease traditionalists, but to breathe fresh life into already great works. But it is the season's collaborations, with Oran Mor, Vox Motus and The Arches, that point the way. All of these companies have led from the ground up, and their presence in the programme is vindication for the importance of the license to experiment beyond box-ticking. Featherstone's final NTS season, then, is both as a summation of her achievements and a serious pointer towards the organisation's future. Whoever replaces Featherstone as artistic director, it remains crucial that the NTS is not squeezed into some parochialist ghetto dictated by its political funders. That would be a backward step, and a major mistake. For the organisation to flourish, the NTS must remain as expansively internationalist as its 2013 season promises to be.
The Herald, September 28th 2012 ends