THE air hung tight, lifeless, and heavy. “Did they say what I think they did? Surely not?”. This was a few years back. I was on a Zoom call with an artistic director and a producer discussing a play I never got to write.

The AD spat out an ugly racial epithet. At least I thought they had. Surely it was all in my head? Scottish Theatre’s racial reckoning had arrived a long time ago and things were now different?

Weren’t they?

The look of horror that broke over the producer’s face told me no, I wasn’t imagining things. What was said, was said. A couple of hours later, I got a call. An apology. It seemed sincere, so we move on, right? After hanging up, I remember thinking: “Scottish theatre really needs a black artistic director.’’

Easily in my top five ever writers, Tobias Wolff once said “art is essential” and by God he is right. Scottish theatre is essential, yet it is in crisis. We know that 30% of audiences vanished after the pandemic and some of them may never come back.

Freelancers everywhere, like myself, are in a desperate state, fighting every day to find the next gig, the next month of oxygen. Like the audiences, for many of us it may never come. Getting a gig in the arts has always been notoriously hard, right now though? Right now you’ve got about as much chance as Noodles and gang had of breaking into Fort Knox.

This uncertainty means fewer risks, fewer risks mean less untold stories being commissioned, never mind finding themselves on the stage. Let’s be honest, black stories are pretty rare at the best of times.

Yet it’s not all bleak. Last year, the incredible Enough of Him enthralled audiences up and down the country. Queen of The Fight put two rising black female leads front and centre. Scotland’s very own Reuben Joseph is Alexander Hamilton.

READ MORE: Glasgow writer gives voice to Scotland's black history in Enough of Him

My last play, Alföld, was also a wee part of this black revolution. Set aboard a sweltering train, hurtling through the Hungarian countryside a black Scot, his white wife and an odd local, Béla, play a game of cat and mouse. I wanted to make something unique, dark, disturbing and that spoke of the black experience in Europe and Scotland. I wanted to write a play where the characters are all unlikeable people. I knew an audience would hate them. My hope was they’d be intrigued enough to stick with the tale.

Jake, played by Benji Osugo (a wonderful talent), is something of my alter-ego. I lived in Hungary for 14 years, a stranger in an even stranger land. I was appalled by how openly racist people in that country are but I couldn’t help but fall in love with the place.

My partner’s name is Virág. Jake’s wife’s name in the play is also called Virág. The character is given great depth and sophistication by the outstanding Francesca Hess. The villain of the story is Béla (the unforgettable Sam Stopford). There were many Bélas in my life. Alföld has drawn comparisons with the writing of Enda Walsh, Harold Pinter and David Lynch. They are/were all straight white men but I’ll take it.

I was delighted by how the piece was received. I wanted to write something memorable, even if you didn’t like the play, then I’d hope you’d remember it. The marvellous, Jemima Levick commissioned the play and the visionary Dominic Hill directed it. I’d work with either of them again in a heartbeat.

I've been told I talk about race in a very interesting and controversial way. Sometimes that can be too controversial for Scottish theatre. I get that.

We Called Him Midnight was a monologue I had written for a piece called Things My White Friends Say. I felt it was too good to go to waste, so I stuck it into Alföld.

In this speech, a young man grapples with his identity and the idea of what it means to be a black working-class male in Scottish society, who our role models are and how we are perceived and how that defines our lives.

READ MORE: Rona Munro's latest James play comes at 'extraordinary time'

The language is dangerous but an attempt to frame race in a unique and unsettling way. “Mum had got involved with another black man. The black man did not have a name. Not a real name anyway. Not one that I can remember. We called him Midnight.’’

The vast majority of artistic directors in Scotland are incredible at what they do, yet that does not mean there isn’t room for a black AD to run one of our top theatres. It would revolutionise the landscape. It might make creatives of colour feel a little more comfortable and not be the only black face in the room.

Right now, I am working on a pilot called Outro, a new stage piece entitled We Were Always Men and a re-imagining of Othello with JD Stewart. I just hope in the very near future I might get a chance to pitch one of these stories to a black artist director.

About six months ago, I emailed a Scottish AD after seeing their rallying cry for racial justice on social media. I had a play on my computer, TMWFS. A play that had been commissioned as a digital piece by The Tron. Sadly, the show was cancelled. That could have been the end of things for me. As a professional writer. I was cut adrift. Instead of disappearing into a dark room, I put my head down and two plays and three years later I’m still just about here.

I felt TMWFS might be of interest to this AD, who quite clearly cared about race in Scotland and wanted to do something about it. I mean, didn’t they? Their social media posts weren’t just for virtue signalling purposes surely?

I heard nothing back. I followed up twice. Silence. Half a year later, they kindly replied. It was clear they’d not even read my email. But at least they got back to me. I should be grateful for that.

After the email dropped into my inbox, I remember thinking: “My God, does Scotland really, really need a black artistic director.’’