: Playwriting in the Ruins of the Soviet-Arctic

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Research (awarded by UHI)


The Norwegian territory of Svalbard is home to a diverse history of multinational settlements owing to the Svalbard Treaty of 1922, which allows signatory states to establish visa-free communities on the archipelago. The Soviet Union controlled the mining settlement of Pyramiden from 1927 until its dissolution in 1991 - it was then inherited by the Russian Federation and was ultimately evacuated of inhabitants in 1998. This play, with accompanying text, attempts to understand the complex history of this Soviet-Arctic settlement, its relationship with the Soviet Union, and its interplay with identity in the modern Russian Federation. This research has been framed through my creative practice as a playwright; aiming to create a dialogue between the elements of research that produced the final play that accompanies this research report. These three key areas are: post-communist nostalgia, the Arctic as a space for drama, and contemporary Russian identity. Elin Andreassen, Hein Bjartmann Bjerck, and Bjørnar Olsen have already written about the power of Pyramiden to evoke profound discussion of contemporary Russia and its relationship with the Arctic. This thesis details the rationale for this project, documentation of my field research in Pyramiden, the methodology I have employed, and a literature review of text-based sources. In addition, I have evaluated the outcome of this project’s creative practice. Collectively, this thesis serves to support my practice as a playwright and communicate my research path over the course of the devising process.
The play attached to this thesis is an early draft of Nightlands submitted in November 2020. It does not reflect the final product which premiered at Summerhall, Edinburgh on August 4th 2022 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Many elements, characters, and plot details were changed between these versions. As a consequence the author has requested that only the redacted version of the thesis is available here until 4/3/2025; the stageplay section has been redacted from the thesis leaving the research discussion surrounding original development of the work openly available.
If you would like to access a copy of this play in it's current, or original, form please contact Jack Macgregor via the following email:
Date of Award3 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SupervisorLesley Mickel (Supervisor) & Andrew Jennings (Supervisor)

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