LGBTQ+ Representation in Scottish Theatre | Written by Heather Richardson

Seeking an emotional impact is a principal motivator for people engaging with theatre. This factor links strongly to the viewer receiving a sense of personal relevance and relation: a key struggle for LGBTQ+ people when there is a lack of representation. Although Queer presence in theatre has objectively improved, following the general advancement of LGBTQ+ rights, representation, and treatment, this does not mean that we halt the battle for progression.  

The National Theatre of Scotland was recently awarded a Silver Level LGBT Charter Mark. This indicates an acknowledgement of their measures to ensure safety and comfort for their LGBT consumers and staff members. However, although their pronoun badges and LGBTI+ Elders Social Dance Clubs are remarkably positive, this does not equate to an increase of LGBTQ+ characters in theatre. 

Scottish LGBTQ+ representation in theatre is undoubtedly viewed as being minimal. This is likely exacerbated by mainstream Queer Theatre deriving mostly from movie adaptations of American musicals and plays, such as The Prom and The Boys in the Band. However, Scottish representation does exist in abundance, it just cannot be classed as mainstream, so you have to really look for it. 

The Traverse Theatre coordinated Scotland’s first LGBTQI+ playwright festival for the second year in a row, admitting that these voices are “still underrepresented in Scottish Theatre”. The festival comprised of several new Queer artists sharing their work, mostly specialising in LGBTQ+ identities and lives. The Traverse has since then been deservedly praised for their amplification of such voices and provision of a highly demanded platform to do so.

Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group created an original musical, “Click to Connect,” during lockdown, which provided a breath of fresh air for diverse LGBTQ+ representation. This performance was written, organised, and filmed by a team comprised of both LGBTQ+ creators and strong allies to the community. EUSOG not only created real and meaningful relationships between various LGBTQ+ characters, they encouraged Queer creators to share these stories digitally amidst an extremely theatre-deprived pandemic. 

Another project that arose from the ashes of our first national lockdown is the website Queerativity (https://queerativity.art), created by myself. This site aims to provide a platform for amplifying queer voices, such as the Traverse’s “Pride Plays”, whilst showcasing diverse LGBTQ+ representation, similar to EUSOG’s “Click to Connect”. While Queerativity features broader categories of art that branch further than just theatre, there are still examples of monologues and performances that beautifully encapsulate Queer identities and stories. 

The above examples are three of many. More specifically, these examples are ones that have confidently advertised to the world in an attempt to gain maximum attention and subsequently, if lucky, establish a presence in mainstream culture. Evidently, this has not quite happened yet. Even simply googling “Scottish LGBTQ+ Theatre” won’t pull many results. Most treasures are hidden away in invite-only Facebook groups, unlisted YouTube videos, and locked websites. It does take some searching, however, the payout is well worth the hunt. 

Plainly, there is no mainstream existence of LGBTQ+ representation in Scottish Theatre. However, that does not equate to no representation whatsoever. The less popular pockets of Queer Scottish Theatre feel more personal and special; like little secrets that we are honoured to discover and create. Although edging towards a more mainstream visibility would definitely be a positive success, Scottish Queer Theatre is no less fantastic and is being enjoyed by those who dare venture to find it.