Isla is a Scottish playwright, performer and director, currently based in Edinburgh. She specialises in creating ecofeminist work and believes in theatre that challenges both its audience and its makers.
Isla's work for stage includes, Daphne, or Hellfire (Pleasance and Assembly Roxy, 2019), Sno Wite and the Seven Dickensians (Strange Town / Scottish Storytelling Centre, 2019), The View from Portobello (Royal Lyceum, 2018), BANTER (LYT/Traverse, 2017), These Walls (Sweet Venues, 2017), Come Back to Bed (Fitzpatrick Theatre, 2017 ), Lily ( Corpus Playroom, 2016), and poetic solo show, Learning to Live (Espionage @Laughing Horse, 2015). While Isla performs and directs much of her own work, she was also recently Assistant Director on GUT (Traverse/National Theatre of Scotland, 2018) and The Duchess [of Malfi] (Lyceum/Citizens, 2019). In 2019, Isla was selected as one of four playwrights to be mentored at Hampstead Theatre as part of the INSPIRE programme.
In 2020, Isla's work made the Top 100 for Soho Theatre's Verity Bargate Award and was Shortlisted for Outside Edge Theatre's Phil Fox Award.
'Cowan has taken millennia-old source material and constructed a play that is fresh and resonant'
'A powerhouse on stage, Cowan’s conviction in her performance is as strong as her writing... a masterful piece of poetic writing...'
The Reviews Hub
'Isla Cowan... is an impassioned and illumined playwright',
The Cambridge Student
'writing at its most raw and most captivating',
'The craft of every word in Cowan’s poetry is excellent, the delivery spot on'
In light of lockdown, Isla embraced the opportunity to expand her practice into audio work. ecotone was made from Isla's flat, with her own voice, composition and sound effects.
In this immersive audio work, time and narrative are turned upside down as the listener slowly leaves the human behind. Using spoken word and multispecies storytelling inspired by Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing, ecotone breaks down the binaries of human and nature, self and other, in a fragmentary assemblage. A meeting ground of sound, words and wonder.
ecotone was first developed as part of the Making Space festival for Scottish Youth Theatre.