Spark play for Book Fest

May 30 2018 | By More

Staged reading of Doctors of Philosophy

The Lyceum is to stage Muriel Spark’s only work for the stage, Doctors of Philosophy, as a full rehearsed reading at the Edinburgh Book Festival this August 2018.

First tickets for the one-off performance go on sale this Saturday. It will the first performance of the full script by the Edinburgh-born novelist in the UK since it was first staged at the New Arts Theatre Club, London in October 1962.

Maureen Beattie, Moyo Akande, Anne Kidd, Lesley Hart, Peter Forbes, Ryan Fletcher and Gabriel Quigley read Doctors of Philosophy. Pic McCredie

Extracts from the play were seen at a previous rehearsed reading on the eve of the centenary of Spark’s birth this year, during the Creme de la Creme event at the Usher Hall.

The play is set in a house overlooking a London canal and concerns two scholars and how their choices formed their lives. Catherine earned her PhD but gave up research to marry and raise a family. Her cousin Leonora stayed in academia and became a successful classicist.

The highlights in January showed a script which is most interested in its female protagonists, although is is initially unclear which of them it is really about. A facet which potentially keeps the suspense going through the whole play, as much as Spark’s twists and turns and playing with form.

David Greig, who directed the reading of the extracts at the Usher Hall, will be editing the play for its staging in Charlotte Square Gardens on 19 August.

Pirandello, Wilde and Orton

Greig said, in announcement of the new performance, “Spark’s play is a mixture of Pirandello, Wilde and Joe Orton for a largely female cast, and it’s all shot through with her own acid wit.

“Our taster presentation at the Usher Hall in February was a huge success, and this full length version promises to be an exciting revelation of a forgotten work.”

Muriel Spark and Alan Taylor at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2004.

Direction in August will be by Marilyn Imrie, who previously worked with the Book Festival in 2016 when she directed the theatrical adaptation of Alice Munro’s View From Castle Rock produced in partnership with Stella Quines.

Announcing the production, Director of the Book Festival Nick Barley, said: “Doctors of Philosophy is an astonishing piece of theatre which demonstrates Muriel Spark at the peak of her powers and the audience response in January was extraordinary.

“We were extremely keen to bring the play in its entirety to the Book Festival and we are delighted that we have been able to continue our collaboration with The Lyceum to bring a full rehearsed reading of the play to Charlotte Square Gardens in August.”


Tickets for the performance will go on sale from the Lyceum’s box office along with the rest of its 2018/19 season from Saturday 2 June and through the Edinburgh International Book Festival Box Office from Tuesday 26 June 2018.

The full programme for the 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival will be announced on Thursday 7 June 2018 and more information can be found at

Listing & links

Doctors of Philosophy rehearsed reading
The Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square Gardens, EH2.
Sunday 19 August 2018
One performance only: 5.30pm.
Tickets available from Saturday 2 June from the Lyceum:
Tickets available from the Book Festival from Tuesday 26 June:

Æ’s review of the event in January: ★★★★☆ Literary.
Joseph Farrell reviewed the script in the Scottish Review of Books in February this year:
The full script is online at the Internet archive: and is available to purchase from Amazon, click on the links below for details:


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