‘THE word has been hijacked by the whole tartan-and-dancing thing,” Muireann Kelly says of Ceilidh, the title of the forthcoming production from Theatre Gu Leor, the Glasgow-based company committed to taking the best Gaelic writing to audiences across Scotland.

Ceilidh is the follow-up to Shrapnel, an acclaimed take on Tormod Caimbeul's landmark Gaelic thriller adapted by his novelist daughter Catriona Lexy Chaimbeul. This new piece was co-written by Catriona and her mother Mairi Sine Chaimbeul.

Kelly, the company’s artistic director, says the piece began with the three investigating the word, which in both Scottish and Irish Gaelic means to visit someone socially.

“It’s literally that I am celilidh-ing on you,” says Kelly, “It’s implied in that, a kind of exchange of gossip, or stories, or maybe it would involve a wee song. The play is about finding your voice and sharing, listening and actually relating to each other. It struck us early on in development how we’d lost the ability to really say what we wanted to say.”

Set in Rodel on Harris, where residents are unaware they’re on the brink of eviction to make way for boutique bothies and a golf course, Ceilidh sees 17th-century poet Mairi Ruadh wake from her grave in the village.

Kelly, who plays the red-haired poet, says the figure of Ruadh acts as “a vehicle for addressing what we’re not saying to each other”.

“There’s a lot that’s known about her and a lot that is myth,” she continues. “The classic tale is of her not being allowed to write poetry inside the house, or outside in the village, so she went up to write on the lintel of the door, an image we use in the play.

“You can still visit her grave in Harris. Apparently she asked to be buried face down, but that seems to me to be a rewriting of history, a convenient story. A lot of witches were buried face down.”

For many years, Ruadh served as nurse to the MacLeods of Dunvegan. Getting into hot water after writing a poem in praise of the clan’s youngest child, she was subsequently banished to Mull for writing a satire about the chief.

“These things were very much not done,” says Kelly. “Actually, women being poets, women having any kind of voice, was very much not done. It was how she was saying it too – she had a very unique style of poetry that was very much ahead of its time.”

Performed, cabaret-style, in and around the audience, Ceilidh also features Mairi Morrison, MJ Deans and Calum Macdonald. Some of the songs they perform were based on some of Ruadh’s surviving verse.

“There’s stuff she wrote as well as more contemporary stuff by MJ McCarthy, who wrote the score and the soundscapes,” says Kelly. “That’s what traditional music is – it evolves. I think that’s what she would have wanted. These are some of the questions we should be asking of Gaelic. It’s not something that’s wrapped up in a little tartan box, it’s something that’s alive, a culture that’s alive and it’s accessible to everyone.”

Ceilidh, like Shrapnel before it, features subtitles integrated into the set. It’s directed by Lewis Hetherington, who worked with Deans and McCarthy on last year’s Rocket Post, a National Theatre of Scotland production based on the true story of German rocket engineer Gerhard Zucker and his attempts to establish a rocket-based postal service on the Western Isles in the 1930s. Although predominantly in English, Rocket Post also features passages in Gaelic and German.

“We didn’t translate any of that at all,” says Hetherington. “People could work out the meaning from the context. That really excites me, that we can learn from other languages even if we don’t speak them. There’s a richness to seeing how words inform how we communicate, the way idioms come out and in hearing the peculiar poetry specific to each language.”

Hetherington has similar thoughts to Kelly on the status of Gaelic language and culture.

“I very much didn’t want people feeling like they’re at a museum with a label saying, ‘Gaelic folklore’,” he says. “Instead, I was keen to capture that earthy, muddy spirit of Mairi Ruadh and her poetry.

“We’re not trying to say this is a definitive version of her. It’s our version. Instead, we’re saying: ‘this is her spirit, let’s let that soar. Let’s allow those things that we really enjoy about her to really take flight.’”

Mar 7 to 10, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 8.30pm £11, £8.50 concs. Tel: 0141 552 4267. tron.co.uk

Mar 13, Bruichladdich Hall, Islay, 7.30pm £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 14, Caol Community Centre, Lochaber, 7.30pm £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 15, Eden Court, Inverness, 8pm, £13, £11 and £8.50 concs. Tel: 01463 234 234. eden-court.co.uk

Mar 16, Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 7pm, £13.20, £11.20 concs. Tel: 01224 641 122. aberdeenperformingarts.com

Mar 17, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, 6.30pm and 9pm, £10 and £8 concs. Tel: 0131 556 9579. tracscotland.org

Mar 20, Macphail Centre, Ullapool, 7.30pm, £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 21, Plockton Village Hall, 7.30pm, £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 22, Kilmuir Hall, Skye, time TBC, £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 23, Seall at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (An Talla Mòr), Skye, 7.30pm, £14, £7 concs. Tel: 01471 844 207. seall.co.uk

Mar 24, Argyllshire Gathering Halls, Oban, 7.30pm, £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 27, Sgoil Bhàgh a’ Chaisteil, Barra, 7.30pm, £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 28, Saint Peter’s Hall, South Uist, 7.30pm, £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 29, Carinish Village Hall, North Uist, 7.30pm, £10, £8 concs. wegottickets.com

Mar 30 and 31, An Lanntair, Stornoway, 8pm £10, £9 and £7 concs. lanntair.com