First written and performed in 1995, The Rag Tree was a reaction to the intolerant, ignorant and reactionary attitudes surrounding AIDs. It is a tragedy that with Covid-19 it is relevant today. Originally staged by Shetland Youth Theatre, this performance is staged by Open Door Drama.

The Rag Tree | Premeires at 7pm on Monday 26 April

The work will be premiered across our YouTube, Facebook and Instagram TV channels, and available to view online until Monday 31 May.

The play is notionally set in Pre-Christian Scotland but no attempt has been made to achieve total historical accuracy. It focusses on a community in, or near a forest and near to 'The Dark Water'. The first scene happens many years before the rest of the play. After the first scene the community is stricken with a plague and ignorance abounds.

The play was originally written as a reaction to intolerance, ignorance and reactionary attitudes surrounding AIDs. It is a tragedy that with Covid 19 it is still relevant.

It was also inspired by 'The Clootie Well' on The Black Isle and the legends that surround this (and other, similar) mystical places.

It was performed by Shetland Youth Theatre as part of a double bill at the old North Star Cinema (now demolished) in 1995.


Performed by Open Door Drama

Written and Directed by John Haswell

Assistant Director Izzy Swanson

Cast List

On Stage Cast

  • Makar - Shaela Halcrow
  • Dearshul - Heather Mowat
  • Mother - Hermione Boyes
  • Seer - Barnum Smith

Recorded Cast

  • Stranger/Spirit - Donald Anderson
  • Leader - Bob Lowes
  • Girl - Martha Robertson

Chorus - Torana Bland, Alfie Boyes, Michael Boyes, Kirsten Cook, Nicola Finch, Nicola Fleck, Doug Forrest, Margaret Forrest, Carol Jamieson, Jenny Klimes, Matthew Lawrence, Caroline Williamson Leask, Lesley Leslie, Jenny McDonald, Milky Milkinson, Debra Nicolson, Ciara North, Craig Odie, Hilary Smith, Iain Souter, Izzy Swanson, Marsali Taylor, Ann Thomson, , Ted Watson, Hannah Whiley, Molly William

Audio - Bob Lowes

Artwork - Laura Hughes

Wardrobe - Izzy Swanson

Tech, film and studio recording - Shetland Arts

With thanks to Gaada Artist Studios. Walls Community Hall, Lerwick Methodist Church

I dedicate this production to Harvey Holton (1949 – 2000), a Scots poet (and great friend) for his advice and help when the script was first created. His work on poetics (especially on the spoken tradition of indigenous North American people) was both inspiring and crucial to the text. We all know that we live in an inter-connected world but culturally this is not new. Way before the internet there were similar mythologies and mirrored cultural beliefs. There was also great ignorance. One wonders how far we have progressed.

Miss you Harvey.

Image credit: Laura Hughes