Panel Discussion at Holyrood

A Panel Discussion of A Satire of the Three Estates at the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, with the Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, 4 June 2014

Opening address

Fiona Hyslop MSP – Culture Secretary and Minister for External Affairs

Full Discussion plus question and answer session

Discussion only

A Panel Discussion of A Satire of the Three Estates at the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, with the Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, 4 June 2014

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The Three Estates: Interview with Jimmy Chisholm

Another treat in the form of an interview with Jimmy Chisholm, who played Dissait in Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis.  Filmed during the interval of the final performance, you can get a sense of how the set design related to the Palace itself.  From the perspective of being seated on the ground, it was almost as if the Palace grew out of the set.

Like Billy Riddoch, Jimmy makes suggestive links between the pantomime tradition and his approach to performing the role of the Vice, calling Flatterie, Falset and Dissait, “little panto creatures, they’re pixies”.  His assessment of the moral scale of the play is also interesting.  He says that while the Vices are impish, it is Divine Correction who is truly frightening.   My apologies for the terrible camera work at the start of the interview!


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The Three Estates: Interview with Billy Riddoch

After the highs of the performance (and well-earned holidays all round), ‘Staging and Representing the Scottish Renaissance Court’ moves into its next phase, reflecting upon what the performances of A Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis at Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle during  June 2013.

Below is an interview with Billy Riddoch, who played Flatterie in the Thrie Estaitis, talking about his involvement with the play in the past and his experience of performingit in its entirety this time, which enabled him to get a sense of the whole shape of the piece as an actor.  He discusses how he approached the performance of a Vice role, working alongside Jimmy Chisholm and Barrie Hunter.  Billy also considers the play’s importance for the Scottish dramatic canon, linking it to Scottish independence and suggesting that a nationwide tour would be appropriate for this uniquely Scottish work.  The interview was filmed against the backdrop of Linlithgow Palace, and the background of the final performance on 9th June.

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4 star review of A Satire of the Three Estates in The Scotsman!


Tickets still available, and the weather is fine!  Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Satyre in its full glory!


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Today’s the day!

Exactly 461 years ago today, the residents of Cupar were readying themselves for a groundbreaking piece of drama. Today, in Linlithgow, history will be made again when we perform Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis for the first time in its entirety since 1554!

Amazing dress rehearsal  in amazing weather yesterday.



Tickets are still available and the weather is fine for the weekend so book your tickets NOW!


And here’s BBC Scotland  on the historical significance of the play:


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Rehearsal blog – day 22 (4.6.2013)

464c985ccd2111e2b1b722000a1d0aba_7 Female_reason_and_truth

We did a full-run of the play today: part 1 in the morning, and part 2 in the afternoon.  It was especially good to see the ensemble nature of performance between Flattery, Falsehood and Deceit developing.  There was much laughter in the rehearsal room at the trio.  What Tom noted the other day about Gerda’s performance in Part 2 is also true of part 1, Good Counsel really emerges as a voice of reason against the sheer exuberance and chaos in this hald.  This is especially evident when she is rejected from the court, but reacts by saying, “Sen at this time I can get na presence,/ Is na remeed but take in patience” and goes quietly into a corner to read her Bible.  Against all the madness, she is an oasis of calm.


In the afternoon we looked at Part 2.  At one point I found myself sitting in the ‘field’ taking photos of the parliament and it was an interesting experience.  Even though you are spatially excluded to some extent, the fact that action is happening all around you and that you are seated so close to the parliament means that you become a really active listener.  I was reminded of James V’s publication of The New Actis and Constitutionis in 1542 – readers of which might not have been able to alter the legislation but were nevertheless privy to previously closed institutional processes.  Maybe this is a dramatic equivalent of such publication of parliamentary proceedings.

We also staged the arse-kissing divorce.  Pictures speak louder than words!


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Rehearsal blog – day 21 (3.6.2013)


Today we had the first full fitting of the costumes, allowing us for the first time to see the magnificent work of Hilary Lewis and her team. The courtly costumes are sumptuous, and the vices, with their scaly legs and huge tufted ears both comic and slightly sinister in their animalism. Correction’s wings were again a highlight, as was the Abbott’s strikingly oversized mitre. Special work was spent in the morning on the tricky scenes in which the clergy were disrobed, which need to be swift and comic.

The seating in parliament for part two was rearranged to have the three estates alone sitting alongside Rex and Correction, with the other clergy placed behind Spirituality and the Courtiers and Good Counsel behind the secular estates. This made the power politics of the session more starkly evident, giving graphic evidence for Temporality’s defiant claim to Spirituality that ‘ye are but ane estate and we are twa’.

We also worked on the final lines, and the singing that will accompany Folly’s sermon and provide the play with a resounding climax and the cast with a curtain call.

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Rehearsal blog – day 14 (22.5.2013)

tam wings

We concentrated today on one of the key reforming moments of the play – the expulsion of the prelates from the Parliament. In the morning we examined the scene when the prelates are stripped and leave the Parliament humiliated. In the afternoon we went back to the earlier moment when the clergy are asked by Divine Correction and the Scribe to account for their behaviour as officeholders and are then confronted by the Doctor’s sermon. Although when I read the play I had simply seen the prelates as collective in rehearsal what became clear was how different Lyndsay makes them. Spirituality, Tom McGovern, is very clearly the leader. He is the one who raises the legitimate question concerning Parliament’s and the King’s right to reform the clergy. But he also seems entirely unaware that his behaviour as a Bishop is unacceptable. Peter Kenny and Michael Daviot, Abbott and Parson, share Spirituality’s sense of wronged innocent. The Parson’s response to the Doctor’s sermon, as rehearsed by Michael, came over as a perfect piece of Lyndsay comic satire. When the Doctor condemns sins like Pride and Lechery the Parson argues that they can’t be sins since if they were, ‘We men of Kirk wald never use them.’

Finally yesterday we got the first look at Divine Corrections costume, and in particular, his wings. They were magnificent; however, if we have a really windy day we might see Tam Dean Burn soaring off over the walls of Linlithgow Palace.

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Rehearsal blog – day 13 (21.5.2013)


In the morning we looked at the opening of the parliament, and there was lots of discussion about the extent of the political discord John the Commonwealth invokes when he enters the parliament.

Peter Kenny (playing the Pardoner and the Abbot) bought up how the word ‘murmel’ (Merchant, ‘How we shall slaik the great murmel?’ and Temporality, ‘to save us frae murmel’) is used in the play to signify social discontent.  The problem or ‘murmel’ is dealt with to some extent by absorbing John into the parliament and making him the fourth estate, but the actor Gerda Stevenson pointed out that there is also something very puritanical and extreme about John the Commonweal’s suggested reforms.  Tom Betteridge said that John’s presence has been produced by the failure of the Commonwealth, and Greg Walker added that there is an anxiety about the forces that have been unleashed by his appearance, and how wide-reaching and oppressive the reforms he suggests might be.

John’s speech at lines 2605-2619 took quite some unpacking to work out exactly who the targets of his censure are – is it the entertainers he is getting at or noble excess? In fact it took all morning to work through lines 2347-3115, paraphrasing them into the vernacular.  After lunch we worked through the actual text.  This is a really key part of the text; the meat of the disagreement, arguably the heart of the play.

We staged the estates gangand backwart into parliament and John’s louping of the stank, and it was great to see these inherently theatrical moments on their feet for the first time having thought about them on the page for so many months.  The backwards motion of the estates results in their bumping into each other, making a point about the realm’s disorder as much as it heightens the comedy.

We discovered that the staging of this section would be dependent on whether we saw the audience as part of the parliament or whether we see them as excluded from it.  This is an important production choice. The actors explored some of the confines of our recreative staging; their inclination to use all the space and address the audience as much as possible was in tension with a political space that is exclusive and accessible only to few.

We finished the day by looking at how Oppression, Falsehood and Deceit get put in the stocks.  Again the inside/outside of the parliament was one of the features that needed attention.  In fact the spatial vocabulary of political space took precedence all day, giving the opportunity to take some great pictures!


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Rehearsal blog – day 10 (17.5.2013)

Firstly we looked at the end of Part One 1785-193, and noted the proximity of the divine and the earthy in the words of Diligence – particularly towards the end of the section, where the official nature of his herald role is subverted when he commands the women in the audience to use the toilet during the break.

Much of this section is in the prosodic form we identified yesterday in the dialogue between Suiter/Suiter’s wife/Pardoner which we have started to call ‘Lyndsay ballad’ – consisting of alternating lines of iambic tetrameter with 1 line of iambic trimeter in a six-line stanza of aabccb rhyme scheme.  It’s interesting because this means that it is not therefore denotative of class (being spoken by Rex and Divine Correction in this scene) but must serve some other dramaturgical or dramatic function.  When the dialogue shifts into iambic pentameter, as Good Counsel’s does in this scene – it has the effect, as the actor Gerda Stevenson said, of an operatic “aria” – it heightens the dramatic stakes.

After lunch, we rehearsed the entrance of the Pauper and the sections between him and the Pardoner in the Interval play, which presented a number of challenges in terms of both the verse-speaking and the staging.  The day ended with a music call for the female Vices, during which Fund-Jonet was directed to “collect” men in the audience through her song.

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