William Paterson was a financial adventurer who devised one of the most daring and disastrous speculations of all time. His plan: to found a Scottish colony on Darien in Central America and turn Scotland, one of the poorest nations in Europe, into a colonial power. He invited the public to invest. And they did – in a big way. Within weeks a vast proportion of the nation’s wealth had been subscribed.
The plan went wrong though, and badly so, so that, within a few years, the Scots – demoralised and impoverished – were forced to give up their nation’s independent status and sign the 1707 Treaty of Union with England.
Inspired by documents, journals, letters, songs and poems of the period, Caledonia is both a tribute to heroic ambition and a darkly witty take on the deceptions and self-deceptions of rich and poor alike. It was first performed at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, on 21st August 2010, in a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the Edinburgh International Festival.