Bigotry, suspicion and sectarianism - how do they emerge in human relationships and in history? The issue is a hot one in Scotland at the moment, with both government and civil society groups looking at how to transcend destructive forms of tribalism while recognising people's need for security and a sense of identity.
Debate and politics are one thing. But how do we get a real feel for the situation, short of (or in addition to) direct engagement at street level?
Drama continues to be an important avenue for introducing and illuminating what is going on, and in particular how history can resonate painfully in the insecurities of the present.
The 2013 Just festival is featuring three small-scale productions with an underlying theme of understanding the often subtle and sometime stark dynamics of sectarianism in Scotland.
First up is Kiss, Cuddle, Torture. In a town known for its social and religious issues, three women battling their own demons at home face the possibility of being expelled from their only refuge - the cold and crumbling school building where they work as cleaners.
In the debut full-length play by emerging Edinburgh playwright Jennifer Adam, Lynn, Sue and Lucy are pushed to breaking point, forcing them into a life on the edge of escape.
In contrast, the acclaimed Singin' I'm No a Billy He's a Tim, looking at the curious relationship of two football supporters who find themselves trapped together, ran during the first week of Just, and will be reviewed on Ekklesia shortly.
Creepie Stool has a very different texture and feel to either of these. It is another new play, this time by Scottish playwright Jen McGregor, who has “a flair for irony, subtle provocation, detailed observation and wry wit”, says Edinburgh Spotlight.
"Devil cause you colic in your stomach, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear?". It's 1637. Market trader Jenny Geddes flings a stool at a minister and starts a riot in Edinburgh's High Kirk (St Giles Cathedral), a three-day brawl in the city centre and, indirectly, the Covenanters’ War.
While differing ideologies clash violently on the city’s streets, Jenny’s employer demands an explanation – leading to unwelcome discoveries behind closed doors.
A story of secrets, lies, early Scottish religious conflict, and the uncontrollable consequences of a single act of defiance, the play brings history alive and shows how the past resonates well beyond the culture and society of its time.
Black Dingo Productions is a not-for-profit organisation with a DIY ethic, established to help the development of grassroots and off the beaten track theatre in Edinburgh.
Just Festival, also known simply as Just, runs from 2-26 August 2013. It is based at St John's Church (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road) and some 27 other venues, and combines artistic and performance style events with conversations, talks, films exhibits and other ways of exploring how to live together creatively in a mixed-belief society.
* Kiss, Cuddle, Torture runs in the hall at St John's Church (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road) from August 9th-14th and then the 23rd, 20:30 – 21:30. Tickets are £10 (£8 concessions).
* Creepie Stool, also in the hall at St John's Church, runs from August 16th-21st and then the 26th, 20:30 – 21:30. Tickets are £10 (£8 concessions).
* Ekklesia is a sponsor of Just Festival. Our news, reporting and comment is aggregated at: www.ekklesia.co.uk/justfestival
© Anna Schwoub is a writer and academic from Northumbria specialising in the link between culture, religion and social change.