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Polly Creed - The Straw Chair Interview

The Engish Premiere of Sue Glover's The Straw Chair is now playing at London's Finborough Theatre where it runs until May 14th 2022.

Set in 1735. Isabel, barely seventeen, is sent from Edinburgh and the life she has always known, to live with her new husband on Gaelic-speaking St Kilda, an island on the furthest edges of the Outer Hebrides, in the storm-tossed waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Struggling to adapt to island life, Isabel meets Rachel – a wild, seemingly mad woman, shunned by the local inhabitants. Over time, Isabel learns that Rachel is none other than the infamous Lady Grange, kidnapped by her husband following their bitter divorce and long-imprisoned on the island. Lady Grange clings with tragic dignity to the two things she has left in the world – a consuming rage and an old straw chair.

Inspired by a true story, The Straw Chair is a modern Scottish classic, exploring liberty, marriage, madness and incarceration, and female empowerment, against the backdrop of the lost way of life of the Western Isles.

The production stars Rori Hawthorn as Isabel, Jenny Lee as Oona, Siobhan Redmond as Rachel and Finlay Bain as Aneas. The production is directed by Polly Creed, with a set designed by Alex Marker, costumes designed by Carla Joy Evans, and lighting by Jonathan Chan.

I spoke with director Polly Creed to delve into the production further.

Can you please tell people a little more about the play?

Polly: The production is the English premiere of Sue Glover’s modern Scottish classic, The Straw Chair, starring RSC actor Siobhan Redmond (National Theatre’s Top Girls, Queens of Mystery, Unforgotten, Clique). It tells the compelling true story of Lady Rachel Grange, who in the 18th century, was kidnapped by her husband and kept prisoner on a remote Scottish island on the outer edges of the outer Hebrides. Against the backdrop of the storm-tossed waters of the Atlantic, this is a timely exploration of female imprisonment, corrupt systems of power. If you enjoyed Lucy Kirkwood’s The Welkin, then you’ll love The Straw Chair. 

How did you get involved with the production?

Polly: I was sent the script by the Finborough Theatre’s literary department and was captivated instantly. I adore Sue Glover’s Bondagers, soI  was thrilled to discover this gem. I have also recently been working on a documentary film about Holloway prison, so I had been thinking a lot about the way society imprisons and casts out women who don’t conform to its expectations, pathologising them as either ‘mad’ or ‘bad’. The character of Rachel jumped off the page to me. Despite the specificity of the story - which centres around a Jacobite plot in 18th century Edinburgh - it felt as relevant today as ever. Particularly given the news that the government is currently planning to build 500 new cells for female prisoners

What is your creative process like when you first get a script?

Polly: When I first get a script, I work through the script looking at key words that are repeated time and time again. I focus particularly on those that relate to light, direction, movement, and colour. This helps me to understand the shape of the play and the journey the characters make through it. This works as a great launchpad for conversations with designers. 


Sue Glover's play first premiered in 1988. What do you think the play says to a modern audience? 

Polly: It’s interesting that Sue wrote the play at the end of the eighties, a decade that saw an even greater rise of globalisation, mass media, and the destruction of regional communities. It seems to challenge all of this. The play is a love story to a tiny community on the island of Hirta and a lost way of life out in the Outer Hebrides. It rejoices in Gaelic language and tradition. It certainly challenges the idea that ‘there is no such thing as society’. In 2022, in the age of social media and the homogenisation of culture, this feels more relevant than ever. Particularly, given the ecological crisis we now face. We must now return to thinking hyper-locally and relearn the lost traditions and rituals of old. 


The play runs at Finborough Theatre from 19th April. How has it been working at the venue?

Polly: There’s something so exciting about the intimacy of this venue. It means the actors can experiment with a much richer and more nuanced palette of emotions than usual. The flicker of an eyelid, the clenching of a muscle, the twitch of an eyebrow. All is visible onstage. This is a challenge, but a wonderful one.


What do you think an audience will take away from coming to see The Straw Chair?

Polly: It allows audiences to learn more about a historical figure that has been marginalised; a woman’s voice that the history books have forgotten. It brings to the forefront so many overlooked voices: Gaelic, female, rural. It does so poetically and lyrically, in a way that is just as relevant now as when Sue Glover first wrote it. 


What does theatre mean to you?

Polly: After COVID, there is nothing like the communal experience of sitting in a theatre, sharing applause, laughter, tears or a tense silence. It is a wonderful reminder of the potency and necessity of theatre


What's the best piece of advice you've been given? 

Polly: Whatever you do, do it with 100% confidence and 100% humility. 


Why should audiences come and see The Straw Chair?

Polly: Come for a lyrical and poetic exploration of an incredible true story. More relevant now than ever.

The Straw Chair runs at London's Finborough Theatre until May 14th 2022. Tickets are available for the production from To find out more about Polly or True Name production please visit

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