Monday, 24 April 2017

Giles Havergal: A Theatre for the Citizens

Blog post by Erika Rodríguez Horrillo. MLitt Theatre Studies student, on placement in Glasgow University's Archives and Special Collections department. 
ghc18_wborder
Sir Ian McKellen and Giles Havergal in front of Citizens’ Theatre sign. 
Photographer Alan Crumlish. Ref: STA GHC 1/8
It’s 1969 in Glasgow. The city doesn’t know it yet but it’s about to witness a real theatrical revolution: Giles Havergal arrives at the Citizens Theatre as its new artistic director, and the scene is set for a showdown. Over his 33 years’ tenure, Havergal will make the Citizens a theatre not just for the people of Glasgow, but one that’s a reference to the world.
Over the past few months I’ve been going through countless boxes of material from the Giles Havergal and the Citizens Theatre Collections at the Scottish Theatre Archive (STA), as part of my Theatre Archive Placement for the MLitt Theatre Studies programme. I remember the excitement of the first day I arrived in the Archive and I was given a tour around it and introduced to the amazing people that work there. I remember the thrill that overcame me when I saw the huge room full of shelves containing books, documents, posters, and even costumes and objects related to shows and artists. I knew the Archive was big, but then I got a real notion of the magnitude of it. And it’s absolutely amazing to know that we have access to all those materials in our University Library!
I need to confess that when I first heard the name of Giles Havergal, while looking for a collection to explore in the STA, I had no idea of who he was or what he had done to have an entire collection dedicated to him there. I have to excuse myself here. I am Spanish and didn’t know much about Glaswegian/Scottish theatre when I first arrived here. But I had been to the Citizens Theatre on several occasions, in fact I had collaborated with them in social projects before, and couldn’t wait to learn more about the person who made that amazing theatre what it is today. And now I can share it all with you.

Hard beginning

The Citizens Theatre opened as such in 1945, when the Citizens’ Company, directed by James Bridie, moved into the former Royal Princess’s Theatre Gorbals Street. The Gorbals is an area in the city of Glasgow, on the south bank of the River Clyde not far away from the city centre. During the 20th century, and due to being massively populated, the area was subject to several remodelling plans that included the construction of multiple social housing tower blocks. Opening a theatre there may not sound like the greatest idea, and it has often been hard to attract audiences. When Havergal arrived in the late ‘60s, the Citizens had been through 7 different artistic directors in 9 years, the last of whom lasted less than a year. The theatre was under great threat: audience numbers were very low, and there were plans of taking the theatre to a new more central location. But Havergal was determined to stay and offer the people of Glasgow an entertainment that would defy that of the Palace Bingo next door. And so he did.

The Triumvirate

The Edinburgh-born director arrived in Glasgow straight from the Palace Theatre at Watford, and brought designer Philip Prowse with him. A year later Scottish writer and translator Robert David MacDonald would join them, and together they would direct the theatre for 33 years in what has been known as the Triumvirate, or as some referred to it, the ‘Unholy Trinity’. In a short time, they would transform the theatre in all ways possible, and make it one of the leading theatres in Britain, which contributed to Glasgow becoming European City of Culture in 1990.
STA GHC 4-49-4
Philip Prowse, Giles Havergal and Robert David MacDonald.
Ref: STA GHC 4/49/4

Hamlet

But how did Havergal succeed in a task where so many had struggled before? We could say that everything started with a very controversial production of a Shakespeare play: on the 4th of September 1970, Hamlet opened at the Citizens Theatre, and as theatre critic Michael Coveney would say years later, “all hell [broke] loose”. Prowse had the idea of gathering a bunch of young actors and creating innovative productions of classic plays. If nobody liked what they did, he said, they could do what they liked. Giles Havergal directed an all-male production of Hamlet that included representations of sex and partial nudity, which challenged 20th century morality. The production provoked an outburst of critics and the cancellation of bookings by lots of schools. That could had been the end of Havergal’s directorship. However, contrary to the predictions of newspaper critics, the immediate results of the controversy were packed houses and new young audiences that came to theatre attracted by the sense of rebellion and disinhibition experienced there. It was the beginning of a 33 year reign marked by socialism, provocation, and theatrical splendour.
STA GHC 2_11
‘Hamlet’ may indeed be going to Hell on a bicycle.
Ref: STA GHC 2/11

The Scottish matter

To the Hamlet debate others would follow. The Triumvirate was often criticised for the lack of Scottish plays in their programme. They would very rarely put on plays by Scottish authors, to which Havergal would argue that the company had a Scottish playwright in their team, Robert David MacDonald, and that the plays they received were often not good enough. Some of the board members would disagree with this claim, to which the Triumvirate would reply that the plays might read well, but not stage well.
STA GHC 8_38b
Death in Venice. Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow. 
Photographer Alan Wylie. Ref: STA GHC 8/38
STA GHC8_38a
Death in Venice. Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow. 
Photographer Alan Wylie Ref: STA GHC 8/38

Keys to success

On a visit to Waverly Secondary School in Glasgow at the beginning of his tenure, Havergal told the school magazine that he thought the problem with the Citizens was that it had never been anything for long enough, and that what the theatre needed was “a consistent policy over a few years” that he thought would help build up the audiences. He did give the theatre a consistency throughout the three decades of his tenure, and his policies proved to be very successful.
Some of his ideas were absolutely revolutionary. With Prowse’s aid, Havergal would introduce multiple socialist policies to the theatre, the most acclaimed of them being the low ticket-pricing. For many years, all tickets would be 50p, with senior citizens and the unemployed having free entrance to every show. The prices were increased with time, but they were always kept affordable to everybody. All actors in the company would be paid approximately the same (recently graduated actors would be paid slightly less), and they would be cast in leading and small parts interchangeably, giving them a chance to play big roles that they wouldn’t probably be offered elsewhere. They also introduced the alphabetically ordered staff-list that remains to this day, which gives an egalitarian status to every member of the staff.
The triumvirate was always faithful to their own beliefs and not to what audiences/critics expected from them. This refusal to patronise the public, together with an outstanding financial management (the theatre never ran up a deficit under Havergal’s tenure), were vital to the Citizens Theatre’s success under the Triumvirate’s reign.

New look for the Citz

In 1989, just in time for the 1990 double celebrations of the 21st anniversary of the new Citizens Theatre Company, and Glasgow being named European City of Culture, the theatre was given a complete makeover, giving birth to the Citizens as we know it now. The current design of the theatre was inspired by Glasgow’s shipbuilding past. The new foyer was covered by a glass and metallic structure, and it included new bar premises. A new studio theatre had been set up during the works so that the season could go on, and they decided to keep it going when the works were over. It wasn’t the first time The Citizens housed a studio theatre. In fact, until it burnt down in 1974, The Close Theatre cohabited with the Citizens for many years.
Whilst the main auditorium has remained the same since it’s construction in 1878, the theatre has been through renovation and expansion several times. The first big remodelling of the theatre would come in the ‘70s, when the neoclassical façade of the old Royal Princess’s Theatre, previously known as Her Majesty’s Theatre, comprising 6 columns topped by the four muses of theatre flanked by the two bards, Shakespeare and Burns, was demolished. The goddesses were kept safe until they were restored to the new foyer in 1989.

Giles Havergal’s Legacy

Giles Havergal gave up his directorship of the theatre on 2003, but he kept working as an actor with his one-man production of Death in Venice, this was highly acclaimed and was programmed oversees in San Francisco and New York.
Havergal lives in London and recently attended the rehearsals of a revival of his adaptation of Graham Greens Travels With my Aunt at the Citizens. The theatre keeps being the welcoming, socially concerned place he conceived alongside Prowse and MacDonald. He created a temple of creativity where some of the most acclaimed actors such as David HaymanPierce Brosnan, or Alan Rickman gave their first steps in theatre.
Havergal didn’t give the audience of Glasgow what they wanted, or rather, what they expected. But he did make theatre for the citizens of Glasgow. His European based repertoire was affordable to all social classes, and he brought to them plays that couldn’t be seen anywhere else in Scotland. Glasgow theatrical landscape wouldn’t be the same without the Citizens Theatre, and the Citizens would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Giles Havergal.
If you want to learn more about him and his legacy, I genuinely encourage you to visit the Special Collections Department at Glasgow University Library, and have a look at the STA GHC collection that Giles Havergal himself has donated to the Scottish Theatre Archive. For more information about the topic, you can also turn to the Citizens Theatre Collection (STA CTC).
GRAHAM GREENE'S TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT ADAPTED FOR THE STAGE BY GILES HAVERGAL 3 - 20 MAY BOOK NOW

Thursday, 6 April 2017

In conversation with Dominic Hill, Director of Hay Fever


Citizens Theatre - Artistic Director Dominic Hill - citz.co.uk
Artistic Director Dominic Hill in the Circle of the Citizens Theatre
Of the entire Noël Coward repertoire what drew you to directing Hay Fever?
It’s not that often performed in Scotland – I guess it has quite a large cast. But I have always loved the play - I think it is so funny, and the way it sends up, yet celebrates, a type of ‘bohemian’ character is still very relevant for today’s audience.
Hay Fever - Citizens Theatre 2017 - citz.co.uk

Do you think Coward’s influence can be seen in modern day culture?
I think that you can see his influence on other writers. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee feels like a more modern, and more tragic, version of Hay Fever. And undoubtedly, Pinter, who on the surface seems to inhabit a world that is a million miles away from Coward, was influenced by his clipped and seemingly superficial dialogue. Pinter is Coward with menace.

Does your approach to directing change in any way when directing comedy instead of drama?
Not really. As a director you’re still interested in why the characters do what they do, and say the things they say. I guess there is a greater focus, with this play, on the style and rhythm of the dialogue. What feels different about Hay Fever, and I think it’s partly because he wrote it quickly, is that it has an improvisational feel - characters say things without necessarily knowing where they’re heading. This also suits the characters of the play, many of whom are ‘bored’, have money but little to do and who are just ‘making it up’ as they go along. After all, the plot of the play is rather thin.
Hay Fever - Citizens Theatre 2017 - citz.co.uk

Noël Coward’s work is often associated with a particular ‘Englishness’ and a focus on a certain section of society, when you approach the piece is there anything you adapt for a Scottish audience?
I think one of the interesting things about Hay Fever is that there is less focus on the class of the people. The Blisses have money and status because they’ve been successful in what they do, not because they’re members of any particular class. I’ve tried to get away from a pre-conception of a bunch of posh people with cut-glass accents and examine who they are and what their relationships with each other are. Some of them are English, some of them are Scottish. I’m not making any comment on their nationality. I think it’s interesting that the family that Coward based the Blisses on were American. That makes sense to me. They don’t feel particularly English.
  
How much room does Coward’s script allow for stylistic choices from yourself?
 His scripts always seem so concise, as though no word is out of place. I hope we are just examining the characters and their actions with fresh eyes and no pre-conceptions. The set perhaps is not quite what one would expect – no French windows for example. We wanted with the design to emphasise the idea that the Blisses are a family who only exist or have meaning when they are ‘performing’. Life, to them, is a game.

Hay Fever - Citizens Theatre 2017 - citz.co.uk

Do you have a favourite line in the play?
Not at the moment. But that might change. I don’t think it’s a text that is particularly aphoristic – unlike Wilde. Its humour comes from the situation, and the characters’ attitude to that situation. ‘This haddock is disgusting’ for instance – in itself it’s not funny but the situation and the delivery make it so.

You have brought together a brilliant cast and creative team can you tell us a little about that process?

What drew you to certain people or did you go into the piece with people already in mind? There are a number of people whom I had admired over the years and wanted to work with – Susan Wooldridge and Benny Baxter-Young, for instance. Others, I auditioned and seemed perfect for the parts. It’s a terrific company. The designer and lighting designer are people I’ve worked with many times – I find that helpful and creative.
Hay Fever - Citizens Theatre 2017 - citz.co.uk

5 - 22 APR

Friday, 31 March 2017

My Country: A Work in Progress divides critics and audiences as much as Brexit!




In the days following the Brexit vote, a team from the National Theatre of Great Britain spoke to people nationwide, aged 9 to 97, to hear their views on the country we call home. In a series of deeply personal interviews, they heard opinions that were honest, emotional, funny, and sometimes extreme. These real testimonials have been interwoven with speeches from party leaders of the time in this new play by Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate, and director Rufus Norris.

My Country - Image Shiona Walker for Citizens Theatre 2017

Speaking to The Guardian, Rufus Norris gave us a bit of background to why he decided to take on a play about Brexit...

"Tired of the shouty voices from Westminster, he decided to turn away from London and start an in-depth listening project to try to understand the roots of the divide that had fractured the country. The work aims to capture the anger and shock of the summer of 2016 and to shed some light on how we got to this point."

To help ensure as many thoughts and opinions were captured, Norris recruited a number of regional 'gatherers' to conduct interviews across the country. Glasgow based Campbell Lawrie, spoke to WhatsOnStage about how he reached out to our own community to ensure local voices were heard in this new verbatim piece. "People were tired of being lied to and people just didn't trust politicians"

My Country cast and interviewees - Image Shiona Walker for Citizens Theatre 2017
The cast of My Country with director Rufus Norris, gatherer Campbell Lawrie and some of the interviewees from Glasgow.

The gatherers were encouraged to speak to as many different people as possible as The Guardian details: "Rufus' 'gatherers' spoke to shepherds and hill farmers, shop workers and locum doctors, children and pensioners, people working in the fishing industry, people without work, citizens trying to come to terms with a rapidly changing nation. Norris listened to and transcribed 80 hours of interviews over Christmas and has simultaneously been working to write and rehearse the play"


Norris spoke to Neil Cooper at The Herald about his time listening to the interviews from Scotland. "Everyone we spoke to in Scotland about Brexit talked about it in relation to the Scottish referendum...there was a lot of anger there. If they'd known what was going to happen with Brexit then they might not have voted the way they did. Scottish people we spoke to on the whole were better informed than in some other areas. There was a much more politicised environment, and people were much more engaged with notions of nationhood and community."

My Country - Caledonia - Image Shiona Walker for Citizens Theatre 2017
Stuart McQuarrie plays Caledonia, the voice of the Scottish people in My Country; A Work in Progress.

The result of My Country: A Work in Progress is a ninety minute piece of theatre which is dividing critics as much as Brexit is dividing the country. It has been called everything from "the worst show of the year" by Arts Desk to "uncategorisable brilliance" in the Independent.

Here's a taste of what the press and audiences are saying about My Country:

"The tone is at once serious-minded (these ambassadors are smart-casually dressed, bearing briefcases, holding aloft photos of the interviewees at the start) and tongue-in-cheek (their arrival heralded by a combative blast of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Two Tribes)."
The Telegraph

"The play is often very funny, always very warm. The voices are gently treated, allowing the multiplicity of Britishness to fill the stage, encouraging empathy and a willingness to understand ... it is compassionate, funny and insightful."
WhatsOnStage

"The resulting 80-minute show, jointly credited to the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and Rufus Norris, is never dull but tends to confirm what we already knew: that the referendum has revealed just how fractious and divided we are as a nation."
The Guardian

"Playfully directed by Norris, the verbatim material is vigorously delivered"
The Standard



28 MAR - 1 APR



Created in collaboration with; Citizens Theatre, Curve, Derry Playhouse, Live Theatre, National Theatre Wales, Sage Gateshead, Salisbury Playhouse and Strike A Light Festival in association with Cusack Projects Limited.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Matt Trueman talks to Rufus Norris, director of My Country; A Work in Progress

Brexit has split this country down the middle. Last summer’s EU referendum wasn’t merely a difference of opinion – 52% vs 48% – it exposed a rift running beneath. Britain seemed a deeply divided nation. The morning afterwards, heading into the National Theatre building, Parliament to the left, the City to the right, Rufus Norris knew the National Theatre had to address the issue.

But how does a national theatre – "a theatre for everyone," as it defines itself – deal with a divided nation? Who does it speak to? Who does it speak for? How can it cater for everyone?

"Generally, my tactic is to listen before I speak," Norris starts. That seemed like the only approach: "A listening project." Instead of commissioning a big Brexit play, some state of the nation drama, the National would ask people what they thought and how they felt. The result, only eight months later, is a new verbatim play – My Country; A Work in Progress.


National productions are usually cooked up over years. Merging journalism with theatre, verbatim plays allows a more rapid response – a mark of the urgency of this issue. Norris is, understandably, nervous. "By its nature, this has to be a bit rough and ready, but people are coming to see a piece of theatre. They – and we – want it to be as good as it can be."

My Country’s roots are in another project. A week after the referendum, soldiers took to the streets – not a coup, but a coup de théâtre. Marking the centenary of the Somme, The National worked with artist Jeremy Deller to send squadrons of young men in World War One uniforms into Britain’s town squares and railway stations. Commuters and school kids came face to face with history’s ghosts. People on both sides ran into a shared history. A divided Britain saw men that fought and died side by side. After the rancour of the referendum campaigns, We’re Here Because We’re Here provided a moment of reflection.

Not only did it seem to bring the country together, it showed that small interventions on a local level could achieve a national impact. What’s more, it meant Norris had the means to reach out. "We realised that one thing we had in our favour was all these contacts around the country," he remembers. Not to mention 1,400 volunteers "all of them saying ‘Alright, what’s next?"

The National put together a team of interviewers to engage members of their communities. It was vital that the project worked locally. "If I’d just rocked up and started asking questions, people would have told me where to go," Norris says straight-faced. He needed "people who could find a way in."


Their task was to engage a broad cross-section of society in conversation: men and women, young and old, leave and remain. "It was an open brief," insists Norris – no agenda. Find out what individuals really feel, not just how they voted; what’s important to them, what they want, what’s at stake; how they see their country. "It’s the personal stuff that’s really powerful," says Norris. "Where someone’s got a real connection to the politics they’re discussing."

That came surrounded by received information and misinformation. "Bullshit," Norris says, not mincing his words. "When you got onto subjects like the EU – what it pays for, what it doesn’t – nobody really knows." Dramatically, he says, that’s white noise. "You just switch off."

It’s a mark of the level of the debate: partisan media coverage with its own agendas, two sides spinning against each other, making promises, sowing Project Fear. It was nothing on the Scottish referendum, Norris reckons. "That felt like a very grown-up approach by comparison."


In theatre, the personal is political. My Country proves the point. "There are some fantastic analogies," says Norris. A Leicester pensioner describing a city changed beyond recognition. Derry residents discussing borders and division. Northumberland hill farmers who cut costs to keep up with globalisation and EU regulation. "They can still compete with New Zealand, but only if they use motorbikes to herd their flock. There’s this beautiful phrase: ‘You go up the hill and the sheep don’t know who you are.’" Norris reflects momentarily: "As an analogy for government, that feels spot on."

Throughout the campaign, one thought kept recurring - albeit only rarely spoken out loud. It's a position that puts quality of life above economic strength; services and infrastructure over GDP. "There are all kind of arguments," Norris explains, "but beneath them all it's about the breakdown of community."


Theatre can do community. It can work like an amplification device, giving volume to voices that might go unheard, but it can also bring people together in the same room. "It can do what bingo does; what school concerts and churches do. People congregate and when you congregate, you’ve got to deal with somebody else." For a society split down the middle, stuck in echo chambers online and in the real world, that’s a political act. It means, quite literally, sharing a space.

After a stint on the South Bank, My Country; A Work in Progress goes out on tour. It’s a step-change for the National: a shift from large-scale tours of big hits like War Horse or One Man, Two Guvnors, to something more intimate and conversational. "Partly," says Norris, "it’s about encouraging audiences to go to their local theatre, but it’s also about using theatre as a place of debate." Post-show talks will open up discussion and debates. Local communities will talk amongst themselves.


The first thing, though, is to listen. Norris insists that listening can be a gesture of leadership. "One thing everyone agrees on is that we’ve had poor leadership," he says, though, this being unchartered territory, he’s not surprised. "Who knows where we’re going? Maybe politicians need to admit that more. Maybe they need to listen more and to listen better."

Matt Trueman, February 2017

28 MAR - 1 APR

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Citizens is #boldforchange This International Women's Day

The Citizens Theatre has long been celebrated for its bold theatre programme at its home in the Gorbals. But the work we do extends out across Glasgow and beyond thanks to the dedicated Citizens Learning team.

Every week of the year the Citizens Learning team provides a range of opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds in Glasgow and beyond to get involved in the creative life of our Theatre and develop skills and self-confidence in an inclusive environment.  The team work with people with additional support needs, with people in prisons, in marginalised groups and disadvantaged communities.

To celebrate the Team's work and mark the Citizens' support of International Women's Day 2017, we'd like to introduce you to Elly.



Elly is a member of the Citizens Learning Team and works with lots of different groups, from young people in a school setting, adults experiencing homelessness, to those in the criminal justice sector and women seeking alternatives to custodial service.

One of the groups Elly works with is based in Garthamlock and their project, A Family Sentence, explores the impact of incarceration on family members.  Mothers, sisters and daughters come together with members of the Citizens Learning Team to explore the issues affecting them, and are encouraged to put their experiences into words. These words have been developed into a script which will be shared in performances both in the families' local community and at the Citizens Theatre itself in June.


 "We use theatre as a mechanism to give a voice to groups of people who are often unheard" Elly.






The group in Garthamlock is one of many projects in which Elly and the team are involved. Tomorrow`s Women, based in the Gorbals, is a unique Community Justice Centre for women who have been involved in offending behaviour. The service aims to ‘reduce reoffending and bring about behavioural change’ and offers individual and group support and a range of activities, including gardening, arts and crafts and a Theatre programme in partnership with the Citizens Theatre which will culminate in a performance at the Citizens Theatre in June.

Women who have participated in this programme have gone on to become volunteers within the centre, demonstrating not only the programme's effectiveness but also the desire of its participants to give something back.  Talking about the project, Team Leader Anne Gallacher said; "Our evidence demonstrates a clear pattern of positive outcomes with significantly reduced reoffending, reduced court appearances, reduced prison time, reduced A&E attendance, reduced drug and alcohol use, improved physical and mental wellbeing, improved access to accommodation, re-engaging with families and access to learning and employment"


For many years the Citizens Leaning team have worked with women's groups in the community and have continued to be encouraged by the possibilities that the theatre process can bring to an environment.


Elly adds "We generate a safe space within which the women can air opinions, so lifting the lid on important topics that affect them and therefore reinforcing a shared female commonality. By sharing our stories and life experiences through the power of Drama, our work encourages group members to reconnect with play as an adult andtapping into the power of creativity"


The Chara Centre is a respite centre offering shelter to vulnerable women experiencing complex needs and homelessness. The Citizens Learning team has delivered a series of weekly creative sessions in the centre since June 2012, nurturing women’s creative talent and supporting the women to develop transferable skills to help them back into independent living.



Female residents of the centre meet with Elly and other members of the Learning Team twice a week to take part in song writing, textile print-work, visual art, creative writing and drama. “The Citizens Theatre people have been great. They’ve brought me out of my shell and they help people relax and be themselves.” (Chara Centre participant).  Sharing their performance work with invited audiences has become a highlight and regular feature at the centre and the group recently published the second edition of their magazine, ‘The C Word’, written by and for women experiencing homelessness.

We believe that our artistic intervention has generated positive change and personal development and it continues to explore the relationship that the women have with the Citizens Theatre. We are very pleased to say that quite a number of our participants regularly attend main stage shows at the Citizens. 


"It is vital that the arts are fully recognised for the part they have to play within our communities, for the tools they provide to those who seek to take charge of and rebuild their lives. It is important that we see people as people, and not defined by the restrictive labels we often assign to them. These projects and performances have shown that the women we are fortunate to collaborate with, are capable of truly astonishing and inspiring journeys in personal development, making themselves better placed to step forward into self-determined life paths filled with positivity, and hope", Elly.


Everyone is welcome to take part in Citizens Learning projects, classes and productions including people from minority ethnic backgrounds, those seeking asylum or refuge, those out of work or striving to recover from drug and alcohol dependency.  We warmly invite you to take part in the creative life of the Citizens Theatre.

The work the Citizens Theatre Learning Team does is generously supported through funding from:

·      Chara Centre supported by Comic Relief
·      Tomorrow’s Women supported by Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Community Justice Authority, Glasgow Housing Association, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Scottish Prison Service
·      A Family Sentence in partnership with New College Lanarkshire funded by Creative Scotland Open Fund

Thursday, 2 March 2017

We're a beastly family and I hate us!

Our co-production with the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh of Noël Coward's riotous farce Hay Fever opens at the Lyceum this week. With that in mind, we thought it was time to introduce you to the outrageous and bohemian Bliss family...


Hover over the characters in the image below to find out more. 





















Find out more about the origins of this eccentric family and why Artistic Director Dominic Hill loves this Noël Coward farce so much 




Book now

HAY FEVER

ROYAL LYCEUM THEATRE EDINBURGH 10 MAR - 1 APR

CITIZENS THEATRE 5 - 22 APR



Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The stars are out tonight! Cuttin' A Rug reviews roundup

Cuttin' A Rug opened to the press on Friday 10 February, and it's a hit!
Ryan Fletcher, Scott Fletcher, Paul James Corrigan. Credit Tim Morozzo

To the sounds of rock 'n' roll band Cutting A Rug our foyer was jumping with excitement for opening night. 
Cutting A Rug

"Byrne’s observational comedy comes up smiling bright in this revival” ★★★★
The Herald 
“a wonderful baroque pattern of jest and allusion, longing, bathos and hilarity” ★★★★
The Scotsman
“the Citizens team manages to blow up a storm in their new production of Cuttin’ a Rug” ★★★★
Reviews Hub 
Mark Barrett, Ryan Fletcher, Louise McCarthy, Helen Mallon. Credit Tim Morozzo
"unmissable" ★★★★★ 
 Attitude 
“A highly recommended riotous romp with laughs abounding, this peek into a bygone era will warm the cockles of your heart” ★★★★
The Mumble 


Mark Barrett Louise McCarthy. Credit Tim Morozzo.

Come and enjoy this night out for yourself - you've got until Saturday 4 March to catch it at the Citz, then we take a roadtrip to King's Theatre Edinburgh from 7 - 11 March.

Friday, 27 January 2017

All the times we've Cut A Rug

The Slab Boys trilogy is a coming-of-age story that is recognised around the world and a modern piece of Scottish theatre history. 

Cuttin' A Rug might be set in Paisley Town Hall on a particular evening in 1957, but it's not only a play 'about' working class Scotland in the mid-20th-century. 

Cuttin' A Rug casts in 1987 and 2017
The play was hailed at its premiere at the Traverse Theatre in 1978 for its joyful and hilarious celebration of Scottish cultural identity and working class life and the play certainly depicts real life and real people, but does so whilst utilising theatrical and poetic language, farce, and dealing with some large and universal themes. 
Ryan Fletcher as Phil and  Mark Barrett and Terry in rehearsals for Cuttin' A Rug. 


Teenage rebellion, the decline of industry and the impact that has on communities' and individuals' identities, the pervasiveness of American culture, and the importance and fragility of dreams and goals are all touched on in the trilogy. Sound familiar?

The 1978 premiere was directed by David Hayman and starred Billy McColl and Jim Byars as Phil and Spanky, with Robbie Coltrane as 'Plooky' Jack Hogg. Also in the cast were Ida Schuster as Sadie the tea lady, always on hand with a Cream Cookie and Elaine Collins, wife of Peter Capaldi and now ITV drama producer.

Original The Slab Boys production. Courtesy of The Traverse Theater

Like many a west coast émigré The play even made it across the pond to New York, where Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn and Val Kilmer practised their best Paisley accents in 1983.

Production shot from the 1983 Broadway production of The Slab Boys starring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Val Kilmer. 
When The Slab Boys director David Hayman later worked with Kevin Bacon on the movie Where the Truth Lies, Bacon told him that The Slab Boys was one of the highlights of his career.

Meanwhile, back in Scotland, the play was revived at the Traverse during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1982. As well as returning to direct the play, David Hayman joined the cast as Phil with the late Gerard Kelly playing Spanky.
Gerard Kelly and David Hayman in the 1982 production of The Slab Boys
In 1997, Film 4 turned the stage play into a film, starring Robin Laing and Russell Barr with Julie Wilson Nimmo, Barbara Rafferty and Ford Kiernan also taking roles. Barbara returns to the trilogy in our new production of Cuttin' A Rug



In 2015, David Hayman returned to The Slab Boys to direct a new production at the Citizens Theatre designed by John Byrne, marking the first time that he and John Byrne had worked together since the play was first presented. Hayman also returning to the Citizens stage that he's so familiar with, though he'd graduated from the slab room to the position of the gaffer Willie Currie. 

David Hayman as Willie Curry and Jamie Quinn as Spanky. Credit Tim Morozzo
Caroline Paterson who directs the 2017 production of Cuttin' A Rug has a long association with the play, having played the part of Lucille in productions of The Slab Boys starring Robert Carlyle and Alan Cumming, and received acclaim for her direction of the trilogy for Rain Dog starring Gerard Kelly, Andy Gray, Barbara Rafferty and David Hayman.  
Caroline Paterson and Alan Cumming in The Slab Boys at Dundee Rep 
Talking about returning to the play with which she has such a long association, Paterson said: “I was 17 when I was first introduced to the Slab Boys plays, the same age as the characters. It was the first time I had seen a play that represented me, and I completely identified with them and their sense of humour.  I'm delighted that the Citizens is giving a new generation the chance to see Cuttin’ A Rug and feel extremely fortunate to be asked to direct. The plays are very close to my heart and inspired me to become an actor. They are Scotland's treasure and I look forward to seeing the next generation of teenagers enjoying these plays.”

Director Caroline Paterson takes a break from rehearsals. Credit Alex Brady. 

Not only is Cuttin' A Rug an important piece of Scottish theatrical history, it's also a great night out. Designer Kenny Miller will be re-creating a retro 50's night out with circle skirts, sharp suits and plenty of chicken grease to keep those DA hairdo's sleek.

Pick up a bargain £9.50 preview ticket, one of our £12.50 Tuesday tickets, or get yourself along to our 50p Ticket Sale on Saturday 4 February and come and Cut A Rug!

CITIZENS THEATRE 8 FEB - 4 MAR