The company was founded in 1973 by the playwright John McGrath and his wife, the actress Elizabeth MacLennan, who had, with David MacLennan, set up the 7:84 Theatre Company in England in 1971. The parent company became 7:84 (England) and 7:84 (Scotland) established itself with 'The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil'. One of the Company’s main aims was to take shows to places and audiences not catered to by mainstream theatre, creating touring productions dealing with subjects and issues that touched these audiences specifically. The 'Cheviot' was a spectacular success on these terms and set the pattern for many other tours.
The Company continued to follow its early tenets, of bringing politically-aware theatre to new audiences by commissioning new writing and touring throughout Scotland, and by an extensive outreach programme involving collaboration with local groups, marginalised groups, pressure groups, local councils, trades unions, schools and other bodies in Scotland and beyond. The Company survived a funding crisis in 2006, when the Scottish Arts Council announced its intention of cutting its core funding, but support was mobilised, the Scottish Parliament petitioned and the decision reversed in the short term. However, before this stage was reached, the company had to leave its base in the STUC building in Glasgow.