The world premiere of Rubble, a new piece from acclaimed composer Gareth Williams and director and pantomime legend Johnny McKnight, takes place this summer in Glasgow.

Gareth Williams and Johnny McKnight – Image: Sally Jubb

Members of Scottish Opera Young Company, who are aged 17 to 23, are joined by professional soprano Shuna Scott Sendall (The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken 2021), to tell this searingly honest, at times darkly comedic, story. Roxana Haines (L’elisir d’amore 2021 and La bohème 2020) directs and Chris Gray, Scottish Opera Young Company Artistic Director, is the conductor.

Four performances of this new work, written in Scots dialect and originally commissioned as part of the Scottish Opera Outreach and Education Programme’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2021, will be staged at the Company’s Elmbank Crescent premises on 30 and 31 July.

This is Gareth Williams and Johnny McKnight’s third collaboration for Scottish Opera, having previously worked on The Last One Out (2012) and Hand for the 2013 Opera Highlights tour. Gareth is also one of the leads on Breath Cycle, the free online project designed to benefit those suffering from a range of conditions affecting lung health, in particular long Covid.

Inspired by English writer Graham Greene’s short story The Destructors, Rubble is set in both the 1980s and present day Glasgow, and tells a harrowing yet inspiring tale of surviving trauma and the power of vulnerability. This part horror, part black comedy follows a group of young people as stand they amongst the debris of Findenterran Farm, until recently a children’s care home for those abandoned and forgotten in a broken system. As they pick through the shattered fragments of their childhood, they speak of what really went on in that largely ignored property on the outskirts of town. Bold, moving and only too close to real life events, Rubble gives a voice to those who were ignored and overlooked by society while their youth was quietly stolen from them.

Scottish Opera Young Company in Rehearsals – Image: Sally Jubb

Composer Gareth Williams said: ‘I initially found inspiration for Rubble in Graham Greene’s short story The Destructors. It’s got young people with agency, and they’re quite dark, scary creatures in a way. There is an ethically grey world that you don’t normally get when talking about teenagers. And, I know whatever I bring to the table, McKnight will do something completely different with it. It’s our job to make sure as many people as possible can access work like this, as both participants and as audience. Programmes like the Young Company are what will keep the doors open and the lights on for years to come.’

Librettist Johnny McKnight said: ‘I’d never seen young people be allowed to speak up on stage on behalf of another generation of young people and their trauma. Now this generation is holding people accountable for things that have gone on too long – like #MeToo – there’s a resurgence of young folk claiming authority. We still try to keep a humorous lens – I think that’s how Irish and Scottish nationalities delve into this type of thing, where there’s real darkness there’s also real humour. And, the rehearsal room is joyful – the darker the material, the more joyful the room needs to be. It’s exciting to be working with young artists at the start of their professional careers to be able to tell this kind of story.’

Director Roxana Haines said: ‘Rubble is a fast-paced ensemble piece performed by our Young Company with stylised movement and physical theatre, so you are never sure if you’re seeing memories, dreams or nightmares. Prepare for the dizzying heights of teenage love, the resilience of young people in care, and a hope-filled journey towards healing.’

Due to the difficult nature of this show, the cast and creative team have worked with ARTiculate Art Therapy, which uses art to improve emotional well-being, to bring this world safely to life. This production deals with themes of child abuse and child sexual assault within the care system and as such has an age recommendation of 14+.

Scottish Opera Young Company offers young singers and stage managers a unique and practical introduction to the world of opera. Rehearsing throughout the year, they work with a range of opera professionals to hone their skills, culminating in their own performance.

Rubble is supported by Scottish Opera’s Education Angels, Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle and The Leverhulme Trust Arts Scholarship Grant.

Tickets for Rubble are available to buy now from

Images – Sally Jubb