The Scotsman 24 March 2023

We all have afternoons we will never get back. First-time playwright Calum L MacLeòid had one when he was supposed to be writing Stornoway, Quebec. He became obsessed with a historical detail about 19th-century Canada. “I lost about an hour trying to figure out when drawing-pins were patented,” he says. “They had to put a poster up. How do you put a poster up? Was it drawing pins? Was it paste?”

Ironically, he had been determined not to go down this rabbit hole. In 2020, he published Fon Choill, a novel so heavily researched he had to remind himself it was a work of fiction not a dissertation. With the play, he wanted to be creative and free himself from drawing-pin detail.

Apart from that one instance, he was largely successful, not least because his work on the novel gave him a bedrock of security. This was a world he knew. “If there were things I couldn’t remember, I’d ask what the play needed and do that,” he says. “The research for the novel drove me mad, so I decided to draw on everything that was still rattling round in my head.” [READ MORE]

By Mark Fisher

MARK FISHER is a freelance theatre critic and feature writer based in Edinburgh and has written about theatre in Scotland since the late-1980s. He is a theatre critic for The Guardian, a former editor of The List magazine and a frequent contributor to the Scotsman and other publications. He is the co-editor of the play anthology Made in Scotland (1995), and the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide (2012) and How to Write About Theatre (2015) – all Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. He is also the editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls and What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book (both Mark Fisher Ltd).