A driftwood violin created to be the “voice of the sea” is at the heart of a play about Scottish fishing folk and communities that is setting off on its world premiere tour across Scotland. 

Actor and musician Thoren Ferguson plays the remarkable instrument, created using a poplar washed up on an East Lothian beach, in Perth Theatre and Morna Young’s critically acclaimed production Lost at Sea.

The play (“superb”  ★★★★ The Scotsman, “goes down a storm” ★★★★ The Guardian, “hauntingly beautiful” The Courier) is an epic family tale about fishing folk and communities that spans 40 years and was inspired by the loss of Morna’s fisherman father 30 years ago. It opened in Perth Theatre on Thursday, 25 April and will tour across Scotland throughout May. 

Thoren said:“This is the perfect instrument for the play. 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.”

The young musician, who has his own band The Jacobites, is pleased to be reunited with the violin, which he first played when it was unveiled for World Oceans Day in 2018. 

He will play it live on stage throughout the tour – performing original music composed by Pippa Murphy as well as songs by Ewan MacColl and Archie Fisher.

Known as The Il Mare Driftwood Violin, its maker Steve Burnett who is an artist and environmental campaigner as well as being a professional violinmaker, is delighted that it is now taking centre stage in a Lost at Sea

Steve, who is based in Edinburgh, said:“I made the violin to be a voice for the sea – 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.”

Steve’s own family were originally fishermen and boat builders in Aberdeen and Orkney.

The play is echoed in his own family history as his great great grandfather was killed in an accident on a trawler out of Aberdeen in the late 1800s. 

His great grandmother, Helen Strachan, was born in Orkney in 1897 – a heritage that Steve has celebrated by adopting the Maeshowe Dragon as his maker’s mark and stamping it on the back of the violin.

Lost at Sea, which premiered in Perth Theatre on 25 April, follows the story of a young woman who returns home to the small fishing village she came from to discover the truth behind the death of her father. As she begins to weave together the strands of her past, a mysterious force unravels family secrets.

Music and song are integral to the production, which features the hymn Will Your Anchor Hold.

Morna, who is a musician as well as a playwright, said:“There’s such a huge symbolism in The Il Mare Driftwood Violinbeing played onstage in Lost at Sea. 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 Seamarks a Scottish comeback for director Ian Brown. Lost at Seais his first show in Scotland since his eight-year tenure as artistic director at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh finished in 1999. 

The play premieres in Perth Theatre from Thursday 25 April until Saturday 4 May before touring to Dundee Rep Theatre (Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 May), His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen (Thursday 9 until Saturday 11 May), Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock (Tuesday 14 May), Eden Court, Inverness (Thursday 16 until Saturday 18 May), Kings Theatre, Edinburgh (Monday 20 until Wednesday 22 May) and Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries (Friday 24 May).

For tickets and info for Lost at Seain Perth Theatre from Thursday 25 April until Saturday 4 May visit www.horsecross.co.uk or call Horsecross Arts Box Office on 01738 621031. For other dates, contact the tour venues.

Notes to editors

Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts presents

Lost at Sea

By Morna Young

Directed by Ian Brown

Thu 25 Apr – Sat 4 May | Perth Theatre

Preview Thu 25 + Fri 26 Apr: 7.30pm £15, £13, £11;

concessions £12, £11, £10; students/Young Scot cardholders/

under 16s £10 (inc £1.50 booking fee per ticket)

Sat 27 + Tue 30 Apr – Sat 4 May: 7.30pm

Thu 2 May: 1.30pm + Sat 4 May: 2.30pm £23, £21, £11.50;

concessions £21, £19, £10; students/Young Scot cardholders/

under 16s £10 (inc £1.50 booking fee per ticket)

Age guidance 12 +

Schools prices are available for this event. Please contact

box office on 01738 621031 for more information.

Book Lost at Sea, Miss Julie and Gaslight

at the same time and save 10%.

Mon 6 + Tue 7 May | The Rep, Dundee


Thu 9 – Sat 11 May | His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen 


Tue 14 May | Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock


Thu 16 – Sat 18 May | Eden Court, Inverness


Mon 20 – Wed 22 May | Kings Theatre, Edinburgh 


Fri 24 May | D&G Arts Festival, Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries  


See touring venues for ticket prices and further information

Twitter             @LostAtSeaPlay

Facebook        Lost at Sea

About Thoren Ferguson

Thoren is a Scottish actor, musician and composer. He appears in the play as a Mate and musician.

He was recently the star of the Scotland Is Now video entitled Europe, let’s continue our love affair.

This year he can be seen in the principal role of David Fairbairn in the independent feature horror/thriller Matriarch. 

In 2018 Thoren became the face of global whisky giant Johnnie Walker, making nine commercials for worldwide distribution. Thoren collaborated with film-maker/director Charlotte Wells on her 2018 Sundance selected and Grand Jury nominated short film Blue Christmas, playing the role of Johnny. He also featured in screen roles in the BBC TV series Clique, BBC iPlayer series Logan High and game drama Armchair Detectives. In 2018 he returned to his stage acting roots to tour Scotland in the male lead role of Arnaud in Eden Court Theatre’s well-received play The Return. 

Thoren leads the ceilidh band The Jacobites, founders of The Edinburgh Street Ceilidh. He composed Armistice, to commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Armistice. This was played by an international orchestra of 40 ensembles all across the world. 

Thoren has played as a soloist at events across the country; to HRH Princess Anne at the opening of Dreghorn commemorative wood, with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra at concerts across the country, and he’s also won fiddle competitions across Scotland. His published compositions are Armistice, The Lads of Quintinshill, 1915, The Somme, and Wilfred Owen. In 2018 he played at the graveside of Wilfred Owen as part of the official commemoration of the centenary of the poet’s death. 

About Steve Burnett 

  • Steve was born in Balerno and now works in Edinburgh.
  • His work and craft are based on the practices of the golden age 18th century Italian makers.
  • His violins, violas and cellos are known for their old mature /natural look and tone and are used by fine players in both folk and classical circles. 
  • He has created a number of instruments such as the Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon that honour the lost generation of World War I.
  • The Il Mare Driftwood Violinwas one of his many environmental projects – in this case it looks at the Earth’s water cycle. As well as using driftwood poplar, some of the pieces are made from trees that grew by rivers and canals. The tailpiece, which holds the strings in place, is of historical interest and is from an old Roma violn at least 100 years old.
  • For more information go to https://www.burnettviolins.co.uk

Media contacts

Pam Dochard, Media Relations, pdochard@horsecross.co.uk, tel 01738 477728, mob 07884 017199 and Matthew Shelley 07786 704299 Matthew@ScottishFestivalsPR.Org