Skip to content



Set in motion by academic research carried out by members of the Colonial-Era Caribbean Theatre and Opera Network, Catherine Bisset delivers an engaging new work. Hoping to turn silence into speculation into reclamation and attestation, Placeholder takes as its starting point the idea that the gaps in the archives, the lacunae in texts, and the holes in the narrative are themselves acts of violence and suppression.

The work’s title refers to the fact that, in colonial times, ‘masters’ would sometimes send ‘slaves’ to hold their place in theatre auditoriums before the show. Some of them may have stayed to watch the whole play (or overheard snippets of it from the corridors), but we do not know for sure how those performances were received, and few details remain about what impact enslaved people involved elsewhere in theatrical life had in the colonial Caribbean and beyond.

Written and performed by Catherine Bisset
Dramaturgy by Jaïrus Obayomi
Directed by Flavia D’Avila

Placeholder was premiered at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh as part of the Being Human Festival on 17 November 2021.  It will be performed a second time at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, on 9 February 2022.

1. Blue light. A view of the whole stage with, left to right, a dressing table and triptych mirrors, a woman wearing a simple white dress and white headband over her long loose hair standing on a chair looking warily at the audience and a black tailor’s dummy with no arms or head, its lower-half wrapped in white cloth. 1. The same woman in the same costume sits on a stool in front of the dresser, looking at the audience to her right. She is reflected in the mirrors. 1. The same woman in the same costume holds up an eighteenth-century dress with gold brocade to the audience. Her head is tilted to her left and her expression is thoughtful and a little sad.

Photographs by Chris Scott