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Hector MacMillan Technician     Playwright     Luthier Honorary President: Scottish Society of Playwrights

Honorary Fellow: Association For Scottish Literary Studies

“If we investigate only by physical and chemical means, we can only get physical and chemical answers.”

Sir Alister Hardy, FRS

Capital Offence

Commissioned by Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 1981.

Directed by Denise Coffey. Choreography Rita Henderson.

The starting point was the closure [factual] of Edinburgh's most notable brothel after the death of "Madame" Dora Noyce. It is not known how true was the report that the City Fathers used planning regulations to enter the building in search of "unauthorised erections".

A group of very talented musicians formed the resident band. Songs were written to music selected by the author from pan-Celtic origins - Scots, Irish, Manx, Welsh, Asturian, Basque and Galician - and all given an early "Salsa Celtica" flavour by the musicians involved.

Through no fault of the performers, the project was in difficulties from the outset. For what was a very ambitious production, involving new live music, a very relevant and state-of-the-art slide show quoting William Blake, and a tilt at Edinburgh’s "fur coat and nae knickers" elements, I had accepted little more than two-and-a-half weeks rehearsal time.

Once under way, the production was further damaged, almost nightly, by unexplained "errors" of a technical nature. That these events were the work of some impoverished mentality [there is long-standing theatrical history of such] was confirmed many years later when a senior figure involved told me that there had indeed been deliberate sabotage. On opening-night there was even an ostentatious [and very amateurishly staged] walk-out from the Grand Circle. The fault was mine. I should have seen it coming.

The music and songs were generally much appreciated. With time for second thoughts and rewrites I believe Capital Offence could yet make a good evening in some theatre, despite a critics chorus typified by that of The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News.

“it is he [H. MacMillan] who has committed a capital offence by slaughtering a potentially exciting and important subject” The Scotsman

“In the interests of objectivity it should be pointed out that much of the packed house appear to lap up every excruciating minute” Edinburgh Evening News.

One dissenter only.

“.. it will be a long time before anything half so good is seen again at the Lyceum” Times Educational Supplement.