Venue of The Month: Òran Mór

Òran Mór is a venue best known for lunch time drama and one of Scotland's most prolific producers of new writing: A play, A Pie and A Pint.

Feature by Michael Cox | 26 Feb 2010

"Fun. That really is important. People say that ‘it’s great fun’. It’s not called ‘a play’ for some accident. It is ‘play’ and it is ‘playful’. Theatre engages our imagination and, I think, that people get terribly serious about it, and it is serious in some ways, but the element of sheer bloody enjoyment and playfulness and fun is at the heart of it for me."

So says David MacLennan, acclaimed director, writer, actor and mastermind behind one of Scotland’s most successful, and prolific, theatre companies: A Play, A Pie and a Pint. Based at Òran Mór, the company started out as an experiment in the autumn of 2004. Over 175 plays later, and it continues to go from strength to strength, not only winning great acclaim but seeing many of its plays obtain ‘second lives’ through performances at festivals, overseas and on radio.

And there is the upcoming second season of plays that crossover to the Traverse, the other great steward of new theatrical writing in Scotland. In speaking about the difference between the two theatres, MacLennan says that "We can’t offer the services that the Traverse can offer. What we can offer is a stage that will put on a new play every week."

Indeed, MacLennan has a plethora of scripts to choose from. He not only gets scripts from established playwrights but from novelists, poets, directors and also from journalists. He even gets a lot of unsolicited scripts, all of which he reads because "there’s always a nugget of gold amongst the tsunami of the ‘less good’."

In speaking about what he looks for in a new script, MacLennan says "The only criteria is: is this a kind of distinctive voice. Does the script make my heart go faster? The plays elect themselves by the quality of their writing."

As for any budding playwrights out there, his advice is simple. "Well, first of all write. There’s no substitute for being your own writer. I think that, with writing, you’ve either got it or you haven’t. The thing that I love when I read plays is when that wee bell starts ringing: this is an individual speaking. Then you know you’ve got a writer. It comes off the page like an original voice."

MacLennan not only has a new season but is also quite proud of the company’s new website, calling the technology behind it "a great thing". But he quickly added "I don’t much believe in publicity and advertising on its own. I think what really sells a place is the work. You come to Òran Mór and you see a great play and have a nice pint and a nice pie, and it’s enjoyable. People want to repeat enjoyable experiences.

"And it kind of sells itself if it’s any good. And I think that’s true about theatre, and the arts in general, that the good will sell themselves. So I don’t look at the website as a marketing tool but as a complement to what we’re trying to do here. And it’s fun, isn’t it?" he says with a cheeky smile. ‘It’s such good fun."