Author details

Jo Clifford


I don’t consider myself a Scottish writer, or an English writer, but a European writer. European in the sense that my major influences are French and above all Spanish – Lorca, Calderón, Tirso de Molina, and Lope de Vega. And, of course, Cervantes. I’m not a male writer or a female writer but transsexual or third gender writer. My writing has been formed by my lifelong struggle to overcome the guilt fear and shame our culture imposes on differently sexed people. My writing is also associated with parenthood. I discovered I was a playwright when I was thirty – just after the birth of Rebecca, my eldest daughter. My first major success, Losing Venice, happened when I was thirty five – just after the birth of Katie, my younger daughter. Me and my partner, the feminist writer and historian Sue Innes, did everything in our power to equally share the care of our children. Susie and I were partners for 33 years, until her tragically early death, of a brain tumour, in February 2005. I have a first class honours degree in Spanish and Arabic and a PhD in the dramatic work of Calderón. I have worked as a nursing assistant, student nurse, bus conductor, yoga teacher, and co-counselling teacher. I am also currently training to teach Biodanza – an expressive free form of dance, originating in Chile, with a powerful therapeutic effect. My plan is to qualify as a dance teacher on my sixtieth birthday. I am currently Professor of Theatre and Bill Findlay Research Fellow in Plays in Translation at Queen Margaret University. In universities, I have taught Spanish literature, Islamic history, Islamic law, and theatre history; I have taught actors how to read and respond to text and playwrights how to write plays.

About writer's work

I want to write theatre that is global in scope and revolutionary in nature. I want to write plays that are like love songs: plays that don’t blind eye to life’s cruelty or horrors but which ultimately celebrate life’s amazing beauty. Like Lorca, I think good playwriting is about creating poetry in the theatre. To write theatre that is naturalistic under present circumstances is utterly ridiculous. To write theatre that just disseminates despair and distress is a kind of crime. Theatre needs to give pleasure: pleasure in the richest, most satisfying way that can be imagined. This is a time of renaissance and decay: old, and still commonly held, ideas and values no longer function in the world we inhabit. Artists have a duty to help dream a new world into being. I’ve had over 65 plays performed in every dramatic medium. I’ve won a Fringe First (for Losing Venice); the Spirt of Mayfest Award (for Great Expectations); and a Herald Angel (for Inés de Castro). I’ve won a writers award from the Scottish Arts Council; been a Hawthornden Fellow; won 3 European Community Translation scholarships; and a scholarship from the Goethe Institut. I translate from Spanish, French and Portuguese. My plays have been performed in every continent of the world.

Websites featuring the author


Current events and projects

I love running writer’s workshops, and am hugely experienced at doing it. I have led writer’s workshops with the Traverse, the Festival Hub, Playwrights’ Workshop, in secondary schools; in Valencia, in Singapore, in Mumbai, and have designed and led Masters’ courses in Playwriting at Queen Margaret University. Besides playwriting, I can teach workshops that focus on radio writing, on gender, on bereavement. In fact, on anything you care to mention.

Other work

Performed plays [key words in italics between square brackets]
The Tree of Knowledge (new play: Traverse) [the enlightenment, capitalism, Adam Smith, David Hume)
The Cherry Orchard (adapted from Chekhov; Theatre Alba) [clasic, the coming of revolutionary change]

The Seagull (adapted from Chekhov; Theatre Alba) [classic, love, art] La Princesse de Cleves (adapted and translated from the novel by Madame de Lafayette; BBC Radio 3 [classic, adultery, love versus duty].

Every One (new play; Royal Lyceum) [death bereavement, family loss]

An Apple A Day, (Oran mor and the Traverse) [prostitution, transexuality, forbidden sexualities].
Spam Fritters BBC Radio Scotland.
Chrystal & the General (co-writer with Rachel Amey, Suzanne Dance, and Clunie Mackenzie; Scottish Storytelling Centre) [suffragette history, political protest]
Jesus, Queen of Heaven (also performer; Tron Theatre) [transsexuality, theology]
yerma,(translation of Lorca play; Nick Hern Books) [classic text; childlessness; position of women].
Blood Wedding (translation of Lorca play; Nick Hern Books) [classic text; adultery, passion, position of women)

Leave to Remain (co-written and performed with Suzanne Dance) Netherbow Theatre, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh. [bereavement, loss]

Faust Parts One and Two (adapted from Goethe; Royal Lyceum) (Nominated for four Scottish Critics Awards: Best play, Best production, Best Actor, and Best technical presentation) [soul journey,redemption] The Force of Destiny (translated from Duque de Rivas) Runner up in Gate Theatre’s translation competition [romantic classic. Doomed love]

The World (co-production between the Byre Theatre, St. Andrews, and Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh). [ecology, gender] Anna Karenina (adapted from novel by Tolstoy; Royal Lyceum Co., Edinburgh) [classic, love, jealousy]

Celestina (translated and adapted from Fernando de Rojas; Edinburgh International Festival and Birmingham Rep.) [classic, love, loss] Sitios (translated from Omar Lorenzo; Royal Court Theatre) [contemporary Cuban play, old age, change]

The Chimes (adapted from story by Dickens; BBC Radio 4) [classic text, Christmas, poverty] God’s New Frock (play; also performer; Traverse and Tron Theatres) [also film; also available in Italian; theology, transgender]

Tchaikovsky and the Queen of Spades (Pitlochry Festival Theatre) [Tchaikovsky, Pushkin, gambling, art] Charles Dickens: The Haunted Man (Pitlochry Festival Theatre) [one man show, Dickens, human solidarity] Madeleine (BBC Radio 4) [classic trial, celebrated murder] S.D.O (translated from Clarinval; Royal Court Theatre) [contemporary Belgium, deportation migrfation]

Baltasar and Blimunda (adapted from novel by Saramago: BBC Radio 3) [art, magic, Portugal] The Constant Prince (translated from Calderón: BBC Radio 3) [faith, captivity, political imprisonment]

Bintou (translated from Kwahulé: Royal Court Theatre) [female cirumcision, gangs, contemporary France, Africa] Torquemada parts one and two (translated and adapted from novels by Galdós; BBC Radio 4) [miser, Spain, loss of child] Hansel and Gretel (to music by Humperdinck; Blue Tiger Music Theatre) [opera, children fairy tale]

Ain’t it Grand to be bloomin’ well dead (BBC Radio 4) [autobiographical, transgender, suicide] Letters from a Strange Land (BBC Radio 4) [Japan, early western travellers] The Night Journey (also performer; Lorca Festival at The Playhouse, Newcastle) [suicide, transgender, Lorca]

Life is a Dream (translated from Calderón; Edinburgh International Festival) [dreams, meaning of life, classic text] The Magic Flute (to music by Mozart; Blue Tiger Music Theatre) [opera, children, fairy tale]

The Leopard parts one and two (adapted from the novel by Lampedusa; BBC Radio 3) [Italy, aristocracy, revolution] Writing Home to Mother (BBC Radio 4) [imperialism, public schools] Bazaar (translated from Planell; Royal Court Theatre) [contemporary Spain, immigration, reality TV]

An Opera for Terezin (translated from Atlan; Fondation Beaumarchais) [holocaust] Inés de Castro (music James McMillan; Scottish Opera and Edinburgh International Festival) [opera, war, love, death] War in America (Royal Lyceum) (“too offensive” to be performed) [dystopia war coprophilia]

Wuthering Heights (adapted from Bronte; Pitlochry Festival Theatre) [love brutality]

Visoes de Febre (Locomotiva Theatre Co, Lisbon) Enlish translation: A Dark Night’s Dawning [Florbela Espanca, poetry, childlessness, suicide]

Dreaming (Edinburgh Puppet Co.) [adolescence, dreams]

La Vie de Boheme (Pitlochry Festival Theatre; also BBC Radio 4) [Spain, medieval, love, death] Anna (music by Craig Armstrong; Traverse Theatre and Edinburgh International Festival) [opera, work, revolution]

Don Duardos (translated and adapted from Gil Vicente; International Theatre Link) [Portugal, chivalry, love] What’s in a Name (Prithvi Theatre Co., Bombay) [religious intolerance]

Macbeth (adapted from Shakespeare; Perth Theatre Co.) [Shakespeare, tragedy, ambition] The Price of Everything (BBC Radio 3) [Cupid, sex, money] Ten Minute Play (English Shakespeare Co.) [love] Light in the Village (Traverse Theatre; also Norwegian radio. Also in Tagalog) [India, Third World, globalism] The Girl Who Fell to Earth or Shoot the Archduke! (Great Eastern Stage) [World War 1, assassination]

Quevedo: The Soul’s Dark Night (BBC 2; broadcast 1993) [old age, misogyny, death] Santiago (Nile Pictures) [pilgrimage, Virgin Mary, gay love]

The Magic Theatre (translated and adapted from Cervantes; Winged Horse Theatre) [racialism, Spain] Celestina (adapted and translated from De Rojas (first version) National Theatre; also BBC Radio 4) [love, sex, death] Inés de Castro (Traverse Theatre; also BBC2, Radio 3, RTP and Scottish Opera) [Portugal, love, war, death]) The House of Bernarda Alba (translated from Lorca; Royal Lyceum) [Spain, sexual repression]

Schism in England (translated from Calderón; National theatre and Edinburgh International Festival) [Spanish view of Henry VIII] Great Expectations (dapted from Dickens; TAG Theatre Co.etc etc) [class, love, growing old]

Playing with Fire (Traverse Theatre) [alchemy, transformation, death] Heaven Bent, Hell Bound (adapted and translated from Tirso de Molina; Actors Touring Co.) [faith, devil] How like an Angel (Theatre Co-Op) [madness, ECT, institutions]

Lucy’s Play (Traverse Theatre) [innocence, love, war]

Losing Venice (Traverse Theatre) [imperialism]

Romeo and Juliet (adapted from Shakespeare; TAG Theatre Co.) [love conflict and death] Ending Time (BBC Radio Three) [Messaien, Book of Revelations]

Desert Places (BBC Radio Scotland) [Reformation, Mother worship] The Doctor of Honour (translated from Calderón; Crawford Arts Centre, St. Andrews) [jealousy]

The House with Two Doors (translated from Calderón; Merlindene Theatre Co.) [comedy of misunderstandings]

Published Work: LOSING VENICE (in First Run 2): Nick Hern Books 1990. INES DE CASTRO (in Scot-Free): Nick Hern Books 1990. LIGHT IN THE VILLAGE Nick Hern Books 1991. GREAT EXPECTATIONS (in Frontline Drama): Methuen 1996 INES DE CASTRO (Libretto) Boosey & Hawkes 1996. "Translating the Spirit of the Play" in Stages of Translation, ed. David Johnston, Absolute Press 1996. “The House of Bernarda Alba”- Guide for Teachers. Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, 1998. LIFE IS A DREAM by Calderón (newly translated, with an introduction). Nick Hern Books 1998. “The Berdache Speaks” in New Writing Scotland 1998 BAZAAR. by David Planell (Royal Court 1997) published in Spanish Plays by Nick Hern Books 1999 INES DE CASTRO (translated into Croatian by Ksenija Horvat), Zagreb 1999 “The Night Journey” and “Love Wounds” in Fire, Blood and the Alphabet: One Hundred Years of Lorca, ed. Doggart and Thompson, Durham University Press 2000. "Translating Moments, Not Words" in In Other Words The Journal for Literary Translators, 2001. HANSEL AND GRETEL published in The Edinburgh Review, December 2001 GOD’S NEW FROCK published in Chapman, May 2003. BETWEEN WORLDS (translated from play by Eric Emmanuel Schmidt; in SCHMIDT PLAYS: ONE by Methuen) LUCY’S PLAY, Fairplay Books, 2007. LA NUOVA TONACA DI DIO, in TEATRO SCOZZESE, Milan 2007


Local authority where they are based


Local authorities where they can work

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian

Age groups


LL funded


BRAW network


Author type

Playwright, Poet