A driftwood violin dubbed the “voice of the sea” is the showpiece of a new play touring Scotland this month.

The unique instrument is used by actor Thoren Ferguson to play the songs of Ewan MacColl, Archie Fisher, and original music by Pippa Murphy in a new play by Morna Young. Lost At Sea is a family epic set among fishing folk and was influenced by the loss of Young’s own fisherman father 30 years ago.

“This is the perfect instrument for the play,” said Ferguson, who also has his own band, The Jacobites. “It is made from wood that was lost at sea for many years before being recovered and transformed into a work of art. It resonates very strongly with what Morna has done in writing a play that pays tribute to the fishermen and boats that have been lost at sea.” Ferguson first played the violin when it was unveiled for World Oceans Day in 2018.

Known as The Il Mare Driftwood Violin, it was made from poplar washed up on an East Lothian beach. The creator was Edinburgh-based artist, environmental campaigner, and professional violinmaker, Steve Burnett, whose own family were originally fishermen and boat builders in Aberdeen and Orkney. In fact, his great great grandfather was killed in an accident on a trawler out of Aberdeen in the late 1800s.

“I made the violin to be a voice for the sea,” said Burnett. “It was created from a piece of poplar that had been in the ocean for many years before it was finally washed ashore. So it’s very fitting that it should be played in a production about the fishermen and the dangers they face at sea.”

“There’s such a huge symbolism in it being played onstage in Lost at Sea,” added Young. “Its story and origins reflect so much that I have tried to explore in the play.”

“It is a beautiful instrument and I think that audiences will absolutely love hearing it – especially when it’s being played by someone as talented as Thoren. I’m really honoured that Steve has allowed us to use this stunning, poignant instrument within the production.”

Lost at Sea also marks a Scottish comeback for director Ian Brown, directing his first show in Scotland since his eight-year tenure as artistic director at the Traverse Theatre ended in 1999.


Lost At Sea premiered in Perth last month and now tours to:

Dundee Rep, Mon 6 & Tue 7 May;
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, Thu 9 – Sat 11 May;
Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, Tue 14 May;
Eden Court, Inverness, Thu 16 – Sat 18 May;
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 20 – Wed 22 May;
Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries, Fri 24 May