7:84 Theatre founder David MacLennan dies

SCOTLAND’S top theatre producer has lost his battle with motor neurone disease.

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David MacLennan, who had been a dynamic force for the past 40 years, was co-founder of iconic stage companies 7:84 and Wildcat which lasted for two decades.

In the past decade, the writer, actor and producer had achieved worldwide success with A Play, A Pie and A pint lunchtime theatre in Oran Mor on Byres Road.

His reputation in the acting world was such he was able to attract major talent in the form of Robbie Coltrane, Bill Paterson and Elaine C. Smith to his basement theatre in the West End.

The 65-year-old, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease a year ago, spoke to the Evening Times about his life in February this year.

He said: “I’ve been remarkably lucky. One of the things about getting this wretched illness is it focuses the mind on how lucky I’ve been with my work, my family and my friends.”

Mr MacLennan, who was married to actress and Balamory star Juliet Cadzow, was the son of two Glasgow doctors but ignored their advice not to pursue a career in theatre.

His sister, Elizabeth, and her playwright husband John McGrath, were also co-founding members of the 7:84 theatre company, which pioneered some of the most radical political drama ever seen in Scotland and the UK.

In the past 10 years, Mr MacLennan’s A play, A Pie and A Pint series has not only seen audiences soar but his success story is being replicated in Edinburgh, Ayr and Aberdeen.

Co-productions now operate throughout the UK and the winning formula has been franchised to Philadelphia with Caracas and Sao Paulo due to follow soon.

Oran Mor’s plays have been translated into Italian and Russian, performed in New York, Moscow and Adelaide and later this year in Paris.

Mr MacLennan spoke earlier this year about his love of the theatre.

He said: “I’ve loved it since I was around six-years-old and my parents took me to the King’s Theatre to see Peter Pan.”

Over the years, his parents introduced him to a wide range of theatre productions from high drama to variety.

He said: “Jimmy Logan moved in next door and we would get invited to the Alhambra Theatre.

“I would visit Jimmy in his dressing room, with all the wonderful mirrors, costumes and make-up boxes then go backstage to see the Bluebell girl dancers close up.”

Mr MacLennan made his stage debut at boarding school in Charley’s Aunt playing Lord Fancourt Babberley and immediately fell in love with acting.

But he revealed: “I don’t think my parents fell in love with the idea though.

“They would have been happier with a stethoscope around my neck as opposed to a string of beads but unfortunately, as an actor, I was second division.

“Wildcat lasted 20 years. We never got rich but we never stopped touring. I’m lucky I came into the business when it was growing.”

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