About three years ago, I started talking to the National Theatre of Scotland to see whether there might be things the Theatre and the Portrait Gallery could do together. Like so many others I was very impressed by Black Watch, their play on the British army in Iraq, and I liked Caledonia, a work that linked the ill-fated Scottish colonial experiment in Panama with the recent banking crisis.
John Tiffany, Vicky Featherstone and I talked about how the Gallery and the Theatre might work together and when I was told about their intention to adapt Andrew O’Hagan’s novel The Missing for the stage I knew that that was something that could also work for us. The Missing reflects the lives of those who have fallen off the map - the opposite of what people expect in a traditional portrait gallery.
Graham Fagen was chosen to make the video piece that would be shown alongside the stage production but could equally well stand alone as an independent work of art. That’s how Missing will be shown when the Portrait Gallery reopens on 1st December. Fagen and O’Hagan knew each other as teenagers growing up in the New Town of Irvine on the Ayrshire coast. Missing opens with the camera looking out over the Firth of Clyde and continues through Irvine and Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom to end on the Embankment in London. Fagen’s work is a meditation on the themes of O’Hagan’s novel; absence and loss, and their impact on those who remain.
It has been great working with the imaginative and professional team at the National Theatre of Scotland; we share a commitment to reflect the concerns of contemporary Scotland and this thought-provoking commission – our first in film – fulfils that perfectly.