Sue MacLaine Company


Sue MacLaine Company creates original, experimental performance. The company mixes finely crafted scripts with choreographic practice and a striking visual aesthetic. Artistic Director Sue MacLaine is a mature, thoughtful artist who made work for the feminist theatre collective Scarlet Harlets in the 1980s and was also part of Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company. She has an ongoing creative relationship with dancemaker Jonathan Burrows. Fluent in British Sign Language, she often integrates signing into her performances and uses the language as a creative impulse. Her company performs in a wide range of venues, including studio theatres, visual arts spaces, museums and village halls.

vessel is a poetic and political work written by MacLaine for four diverse female performers. It explores devotion to a cause, asking: what is an acceptable level of sacrifice? Its central metaphor is the medieval practice of anchoritism, which saw women choosing a life of confinement within a locked cell inside a church. Through this lens the work explores current concerns including political engagement, self preservation and agency. Creative captioning enhances these themes while making the work accessible to wide audiences.

This piece is choreographed by Seke Chimutengwende, who also presents Black Holes in Edinburgh Showcase 2019.

vessel is in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

In the press

"The feelings that words create, rather than their meaning, come to the fore in this quietly revealing piece" The Guardian (on vessel)

"MacLaine crafts a sentence the way a composer crafts a melody" Disability Arts Online (on vessel)

Production details

  • Writer

    Sue MacLaine
  • Director

    Sue MacLaine
  • Choreographer

    Seke Chimutengwende
  • Designer

    Set designer: Ben Pacey, Sound designer: Owen Crouch, Costume designer: Holly Murray
  • Number of people on stage

  • Number of people in touring company

  • Freight


    12 cubic metres maximum

  • Touring Availability

    From August 2019
  • Scale of venue

    Small-scale (capacity up to 400)
  • Minimum performance space

    6.4m x 4.5m x 1.3m
  • Text-based

    Dense (important for audiences to have a good understanding of English)

In Edinburgh

  • Venue

    Emerald Theatre, Greenside, 25 Nicholson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9BX
  • Production dates

    19–24 AUGUST
  • Production times

  • Duration

    60 MINS
  • Audience capacity




Sue MacLaine is a current PhD student at the University of Essex exploring female-authored autobiographical performance. She is able to lecture on:

  • Autobiographical writing
  • The relationship between autobiography and memory
  • The relationship between memory and trauma
  • The development of the performative 'I'
  • For vessel with Dr Mari Hughes Edwards, lectures and discussion groups on the history and relevance of Anchoritism
  • Encouraging audience diversity with particular expertise in engaging sign language users
  • Best practice for working with sign language interpreters in rehearsal and performance

Artist Development Workshops

  • The development of the performative 'I'
  • Methodologies for creating autobiographical performance
  • What is the difference between content and form in the creation of contemporary performance
  • Understanding and developing skills of 'visual vernacular'* story telling within performance with Brian Duffy/Nadia Nadarajah

*Visual vernacular is a highly visual and physical form of performance primarily performed by Deaf people, combining strong movement, iconic BSL signs, gestures and facial expressions.

A Tale of Two Disciplines: creation and delivery of work that has text and choreography as integral to their form with Seke Chimutengwende.

Creating a sign language translation/working with sign language interpreters; an exploration of best practice and approach

Additional productions

Can I Start Again Please a work for two performers using sign language and spoken English to explore the capacities of language to express trauma. Simple set. 55 minutes with no interval. Winner of Total Theatre Award for Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form