Theatre: breathing life into history

Co-created in partnership with Durham University’s Archaeology Department in 2018, Woven Bones brought to life the untold stories of the Scottish soldiers in the theatre. This Cap-a-Pie production, written by award-winning Scottish writer and director Laura Lindow, offered a unique chance to walk ‘in their shoes’. In the PDF below you can read an extract taken from the opening of the play. Woven Bones toured to eight venues from Dunbar to Durham, the route marched by the Scottish soldiers.

Woven Bones was well reviewed and selected as ‘theatre pick’ for Scotland in The Sunday Times. It also exceeded audience targets. 679 people saw the 11 shows: performances in Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed and two shows in Durham all sold out. 96 school children attended schools performances and practical workshops working with the actors.

Audience feedback was dominated by two themes: those who commented that they had had an emotional experience, and those that showed people had learnt something about history. Specific comments included:

  • ‘It brought the story to life in such a powerful and moving way. I’ve been moved and learnt a lot too. Thankyou’

  • ‘Powerful and sad. Does what archaeology rarely does and raises a human life from the fragments. It is great to see archaeology inputting so directly into communities’

  • ‘It was wonderful and fascinating and really breathed life into the history. I’m so happy I was able to see it’

  • ‘A beautiful lyrical weaving together of words and stories and music – a lovely narrative, moving in and of itself, but a great way to bring the research to life’

  • ‘Touching and timeless story, beautiful tribute to our humanity!’

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

What challenges do you think the scriptwriter, Laura Lindow, faced in translating the Scottish soldiers story into a theatre production? Discuss with other participants in the Comments section below.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Durham University