I'm in the process of uploading several of my plays - professionally produced, but as yet unpublished - to Kindle. Two of my previous plays, Wormwood and The Price of a Fish Supper are in conventional print, the former in a collection called Scotland Plays and the latter in Scottish Shorts, both published by the excellent Nick Hern Books. But even though Kindle isn't the obvious home for plays, I've decided that three or four of them might sit well as downloads and The Secret Commonwealth is the first. It's essentially a monologue, which means that it's very readable - and I'm told it's also poetic and fairly densely written, so I think people may get something - a different experience, but nevertheless an interesting one - out of reading the text. It's probably the same with the other two plays, Burns on the Solway and Quartz, but I'll blog about those in the next week or so.
The Secret Commonwealth was produced at The Oran Mor in Glasgow, during one of their A Play, A Pie and a Pint seasons of lunchtime theatre. It is the story of the Reverend Robert Kirk, a minister of the church, in Aberfoyle, in late seventeenth century Scotland. He communicated with the faeries on the mysterious and numinous Doon Hill, or Dun Sithean just outside the town, wrote a treatise about them called The Secret Commonwealth, and was said, eventually, to have been taken away by them to the faery realm, for giving away their secrets. Even his grown-up son believed that his father had 'gone to his own people.'
|Liam Brennan and Deirdre Graham|
It is possible, however, to read that treatise in another way. Kirk was no fool, and had been instrumental in helping to translate the metical psalms and then the bible into Gaelic. He was writing at a time when all the ancient customs and beliefs of the Gael - beliefs which early Celtic christianity had somehow managed to accommodate quite comfortably - were under threat from a new and much less compromising religion. There are some who see Kirk's treatise as subversive text, asserting the value of those old beliefs which had underpinned life in the Scottish highlands and islands for so many years.
It is this that is addressed in the play which was very well reviewed. Joyce MacMillan called Kirk 'a hero for our time' and that was, I think, exactly what I was trying to achieve with a 'lyrical yet driven 50 minute lament over Scotland's failure to integrate its dour Presbyterian faith and dogged Enlightenment rationalism, with the wilder, more beautiful and more sensual aspects of its Gaelic heritage.'
If you want to read more about the play, you can find a couple of splendid interviews here
One with Liam Brennan who played Kirk with great sensitivity and understanding, and one with brilliant young director Jen Hainey who talks about visiting Dun Sithean, or the hill of the fairies, outside Aberfoyle.
If you'd like to read the play itself, you can buy The Secret Commonwealth from Amazon's Kindle Store as a very reasonably priced download, here.
Finally, my son the video games designer has made me some lovely covers for my plays. I wanted them to be reasonably simple - I didn't want to add too much to the cost of the eBooks - but striking, and evocative of each play, and I think he has managed to achieve that.