How to Act is a practice-research project that takes the form of a play for two actors written and directed by Graham Eatough and commissioned and produced by the National Theatre of Scotland. This project is an attempt to write and stage a contemporary play that draws directly on the forms and ideas of Greek tragedy as theorised in the recent work of Simon Critchley (Tragedy the Greeks and Us), and with a particular focus on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. The project explores how the staging of different ideas of truth in Greek tragedy might help to frame current political and ethical debates around cultural appropriation and power dynamics within creative practice, and responds to the proliferation of interest in Greek tragedy over recent years.  

This research was carried out with the support of National Theatre of Scotland, Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts, Citizens Theatre Glasgow and the Theatre and the Performance Research Association symposium, Tragedy and the Contemporary in 2016. How to Act was initially presented at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Festival 2017 where it won the Scotsman Fringe First prize, and toured Scotland in 2018 with accompanying symposia events.  

Research Questions 

  1. How might a contemporary play find equivalents for key formal and conceptual aspects of Greek tragedy in order to explore current ethical and political debates around cultural appropriation and power dynamics within creative practice? 
  1. How might this approach complicate a perceived consensus around universal values in the west as manifested through the work of European theatre makers such as Brook and Grotowski towards other cultures in their advocacy for an essential and universal theatre language? 
  1. How might the meta-theatrical staging of a theatre masterclass encourage a self-reflexive spectatorship, engaged with the play’s fiction whilst aware of its critique of conventional modes of representation and storytelling.