In October 2012, National Theatre of Scotland and Shetland Arts, with support from Creative Scotland, started 'Ignition', a project exploring with Shetland residents the bittersweet relationships with the automobile – how it shapes us, defines us, supports us, frees us, challenges our attitudes towards our dwindling resources and, sometimes, kills us.

October 2012 - May 2013
Project Subject
Exploring car use with Shetland Residents.
National Theatre of Scotland
Brae, Bigton, Cullivoe

Exploring our many complex interactions with the automobile, Ignition engaged with Shetland's residents, to explore both the personal and global impact of their use in our lives, in a group of islands that are home to Europe's largest oil terminal and a centre of renewable energy research and development.

Ignition used a range of workshops/residencies, pop-up events and public events to help gather information from as many of Shetland's residents as possible. This included Dance and Parkour Workshops exploring travel. The White Wife, an actor travelling round Shetland's long and winding roads, used a number of methods to gather 'car stories', from hitch-hiking, to Sunday Teas on Wheels, to travelling 'On Da Buses' exploring the use of public transport.

Music was also been used to extract some stories and thoughts about the car – Ignition's resident composer Hugh Nankivell worked with schools and music groups to write and arrange music inspired by travel and transport.

On 12th January, 2013 an open day was held at Mareel, inviting the public to stop and think about how cars are involved in their lives, and share more stories.

Ignition culminated with a final series of performances that delivered one of the most ambitious, exciting and unique site theatre experiences, and use the car itself as part of the theatre space. There were a total of 7 performances, at Brae, Bigton and Cullivoe.

There's no doubt that Ignition is taking on live issues. Shetland's relationship with the car is complex. As in any rural area, many people depend on their vehicles. And Shetland – despite the amount of crude oil which comes on shore here and is shipped away for processing at Grangemouth – has some of the highest fuel prices in the UK.

Susan Mansfield
The Scotsman - Read in full

Ignition, which turns the stories of the people of Shetland into a two-hour theatre production, provides each audience member with a distinct experience..

Mark Brown
The Telegraph - Read in full

Wils Wilson's extraordinary show for the National Theatre of Scotland and Shetland Arts presents motor vehicles not in opposition to culture, but as the very definition of it. Here in Shetland, home of the Sullom Voe oil terminal and a rare number of under-age drivers, the car is the factor common to every life experience, from the dash to the antenatal ward to the last hearse-driven journey of all.

Mark Fisher
The Guardian - Read in full

As a theatre work, it is sometimes touching, sometimes thought-provoking, but rarely entirely cohesive. However, that, in a sense, is secondary to an artistic process which has drawn so many stories and so much creativity from the people of Shetland.

Mark Brown
Scottish Stage - Read in full


National Theatre of Scotland
Project description on National Theatre of Scotland website