The Boilerhouse Story


Paul Pinson’s Own Leadership Story Started 30 Years Ago…

A Sense of Freedom: Jimmy Boyle and The Gateway Exchange 

It’s 1988 and the Gateway Exchange in Edinburgh – the revolutionary and social reforming art space created after he left Barlinnie Jail Special Unit by Jimmy Boyle together with Sarah Boyle, and Elspeth and Sebastian Horsley - is coming to the end of its extraordinary life. 

The last show in its’ theatre space is “Requiem for a Woman’s Soul”, performed by Tim Tracey and Rhona Cameron (later to find success as a comedian). Fittingly the show is created by four of the volunteer individuals who help run the theatre – Paul Pinson, Stuart Blackburn, Lance Flynn and Alan Ross.

At the end of the Festival The Gateway closes its doors for the last time. With the support of the Boyles, out of the ashes rises a professional theatre company – Boilerhouse - with the same four people at the helm.

Blackburn departs shortly afterwards (going on eventually to become the Executive Producer of Coronation Street!) and the others start the journey that will establish the company as one of the most significant voices in Scottish theatre over the next 20 years…

They start by creating the first physical theatre seen in Scotland.

“An experience that sates a generation’s demand for visceral, angry and intelligent theatre.”

The Guardian

Wildly Ambitious and Fully Realised

They burn into public consciousness with brutally explosive work such as The Dorm and Inferno! with Paul Pinson as the company’s first formal Artistic Director. Along the way they win the first Edinburgh Evening News National Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Festival.

Over subsequent years the company continue to build their reputation as one of the most pioneering and courageous in the country, always wildly ambitious in conception and more often than not successful in execution…

“Cutting edge theatre that is challenging, political, intimidating, and energising.”
Time Out

“The comedy-stuffed punters should get down on their bended knees and thank them.

It is like a bomb going off. An explosion of visceral energy and uncompromising political writing; a spike of loathing and contempt banged hard into the complacent heart of the Edinburgh Festival.”
The Scotsman

The company expand into ever more challenging work – always at the forefront, always attempting new work in new ways - pioneers of site-specific and site-generic productions (i.e. not in theatres!), pioneers of live film in performance, pioneers of pushing the boat out and sometimes not knowing when it was sensible to stop.

“It breeds a new generation of theatre audience…one of the essential theatre events this year.”

The Stage

Pioneering Work in Extraordinary Places

But sensible wasn’t their best attribute as they found themselves:

  • Performing underneath Glasgow’s Kingston motorway bridge at rush hour (Bleach UK)
  • Literally combating the waves on an island off the Dutch coast (Beachcomber)
  • Dumping tons of earth onto the main stage of Glasgow’s Tramway with a JCB (Barabbas) and featuring one of the first stage appearances from Michelle Gomez (latterly Missy in Doctor Who amongst other roles)

Innovative, energising, and compelling.”
The Independent

  • Collaborating with Irvine Welsh to create an hallucinogenic, immersive, DJ-fuelled theatrical experience (Headstate)
  • Hanging a gigantic film screen (and performers) from cranes in the Scottish Highlands (Sister Sister)
  • Persuading the formidably talented Kate Dickie (Red Road, Prometheus, Game of Thrones) to run non- stop onstage for 90 minutes (Running Girl)

“One of the darkest, most dramatic and most haunting journeys ever portrayed in Scottish theatre. Kate Dickie’s performance is dazzling, drawing the audience into her inner life of doomed bravado and mounting terror; and at the end, the audience cheer her to the echo.”

The Scotsman

  • And staging a real live traffic jam with cars in a warehouse in New Zealand (Bleach NZ).

Along the way they even become semi-respectable and perform to a royal audience in Monaco in the middle of the Formula 1 circuit (3600).

They also pursue a parallel programme of theatre-in-education working with young people from Shetland to The Borders and introducing the revolutionary educational teachings of Brazilian teacher and political activist Augusto Boal to Scotland.

“An epic 21st-century son et lumiere.”

The Independent​​

Irvine Welsh, a Dog and a Scottish Record

They collaborate with an extraordinary range of people including novelists such as Irvine Welsh and Alan Warner; actors, designers, poets, choreographers, composers, educationalists, filmmakers, playwrights, aerialists, percussionists, visual artist, sculptors, car mechanics, teachers, pyro technicians, video artists, and a dog.

Almost accidentally they manage to create the audience record for a Scottish theatre company when 18,000 people watch The Bridge over 2 extraordinary nights in Angers, France in 2004.

The Curtain Falls

However after more than 40 shows people move on and the site-specific show in the Netherlands Beachcomber (2007) and the huge Hogmanay celebration Feet First (2009) for 15,000 people in the middle of Edinburgh’s World Heritage listed Old Town are the last two outings for Boilerhouse…

That was a blast!

“Cutting edge theatre this is challenging, political, intimidating, and energising.”

Time Out