One of Scotland’s leading playwrights, David Greig’s work has been performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre as well as by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. At home his plays have toured widely, featured in the Edinburgh International Festival and been produced by the National Theatre of Scotland. Since 2015 he has also been artistic director of Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, where his first new original play for six years, Two Sisters, is currently being performed (until March 2).

What was the most memorable recent theatre show you saw?

The Lyceum’s production of Jekyll And Hyde was the last show I saw and it was terrific. A one-person show, funny, Gothic and beautifully acted. Forbes Masson embodied respectability dancing on the surface of horror in a way that was modestly understated but still satisfyingly dark. Jekyll and Hyde is an Edinburgh story to its bones and the Edinburgh audience seemed to love it.

Favourite film?

The Hunt for The Wilderpeople by Taiko Waititi.

What’s the last film you saw in a cinema?

I don’t get much chance to go to the cinema. My nights out tend to be theatre. I enjoy watching new films on stream at home, but the last film I saw in a proper cinema was The Northman by Robert Eggers.

What has been your most formative cultural experience?

Joining Edinburgh Youth Theatre in 1983. Theatre is a transformative art form, but those it transforms the most are the ones who make it. Performing in Lorca, musicals, Shakespeare and Miller I discovered how theatre is literally ‘play’ for grown-ups. It’s a means to understand life in three dimensions, in movement, words and time. It’s sacred and it’s profane. It’s social and it’s profoundly personal. EYT changed the direction of my life and gave me a pole star which I have followed ever since.

The Herald:

Who or what do you always turn off on TV or radio?

Well, I don’t turn either of them on so, I suppose, if they were on at all I would switch them off.

Favourite actor?

I can’t pick one actor, but I would like to give a shout out to all the hard-working multi-talented Scottish stage actors who are rarely granted money or fame but who do brilliant work, from Outlander to panto, from new plays to Brecht, and whose talent and imagination are the foundation on which all Scottish theatre is built.

You’re in a station or airport shop ahead of a journey. What magazine do you grab?

Private Eye.

What music are you currently listening to a lot?

I am enjoying listening to cover versions of Bob Dylan songs at the moment. I’m slowly working my way through every Dylan album, searching for all the cover versions I can find, then choosing one version of each song to put on a giant playlist. I like hearing the songs anew, sung by women like Cat Power or Emma Swift, re-invented by artists like Bettye La Vette or The Blind Boys of Alabama, or else completely broken open like in the terrific reggae versions on the covers album Is It Rolling, Bob. The act of searching for covers online is also a lazy, joyful way to while away an evening. My current favourites are an Italian version of Desolation Row, Via Della Poverta, by Fabrizio de Andre, and Hey Mr Tambourine Man by the Fourth Street Sisters.

What musical instrument do you wish you could play?

The double bass because I have a double bass.

Vinyl or MP3​?


What’s the last book you read?

I’ve just finished a biography of George Macleod, founder of The Iona Community, by Ron Ferguson. Macleod was a huge figure as a churchman and also as a social thinker in mid-20th century Scotland. His legacy is everywhere you look in political life, on the island of Iona, and in the marginalised and deprived communities of the Central Belt. Ron’s biography is a compelling, fast-paced portrait of a mighty character, an almost biblical-scale patriarch. But he also tells a journalistically compelling story of the way Scotland changed after the Second World War.

Irvine Welsh or Robert Louis Stevenson?


Favourite living author?

Patricia Lockwood. She’s the best comic prose stylist I’ve read since PG Wodehouse, but she’s also a magpie thinker who finds under the trash of Western popular culture bright gobbets of a deep and odd spirituality. I find she articulates my own bewildered self-hood better than any other writer.

What have you seen recently that was over-rated ?

I don’t like to be negative. Some things are just not for me. It’s hard to make stuff and artists are rarely in control of their own hype. However, while I loved The Northman as an action film and I admired the depth of its historical research, I did laugh to think that you would go to such trouble over your historical accuracy without noticing that Alexander Skarsgard’s buff and oiled body was so plainly built in a 21st century gym it might as well have been a Tesla parked outside the Longhouse. There was also a somewhat fruity outdoor love scene in a forest at night which, any Scot knows, would in reality only be a dreadful midge driven sex-pocalypse.

The Herald:

Recommend a musician …

Hamish Hawk. Lyrically and musically, he’s one of the most exciting song-makers to come out of Scotland in a long time. Start with Catherine Opens A Window or Goldenacre, then move on to Once Upon An Acid Glance.

And an album …

Fool On The Hill by Sergio Mendes And Brasil 66. Put it on the hi-fi, mix yourself an Old Fashioned, light up a Gauloise and slide onto the sofa next to your lover. It’s bossa nova, baby.

Favourite song?

Pale Blue Eyes by Paul Quinn and Edwyn Collins

What haven’t you managed to get around to yet but will when you have the time?

I recently bought a multi-volume copy of the Cursor Mundi, the 13th century Northumbrian poem which tells the history of the world. I’d quite like to retire, take a part-time morning job in B&Q, and have a punt at translating the Cursor in the afternoons.

Recommend a podcast …

Know Your Enemy is an in-depth and thoughtful exploration of the intellectual history of the American Right which is made by two of the most acute writers on the American Left, Sam Adler Bell and Matthew Sittman. Two clever friends just talking to each other, but every episode opens dozens of doors onto new ideas. They also introduced me to the political writing of Garry Wills, for which I am forever grateful.

Fiction or non-fiction?

Like many men of my age, I do enjoy the bloody historiography of Sir Anthony Beevor.

Edinburgh or Glasgow?

Do you want to get me killed?