Monday, 26 March 2018

Long Day's Journey Into Night: Week Three of Rehearsals

As we enter week four of rehearsals for Long Day's Journey Into Night Assistant Director George Nichols reveals how the play has been progressing so far:

In the rehearsal room this week we’ve been working through the play a second time. Because of the size of the play and the complexity of its language Dominic thought it particularly important that we get through it once before getting too in depth. That means that this week we’ve been asking more difficult questions, and have started to construct the characters and their world in more detail.

It’s a real privilege, from the perspective of a training director, to get to see such an experienced group of people work on one of the greatest plays ever written. Watching how fearlessly everyone is approaching a play of this size and scale, and with such attention to detail, is really humbling. At this point in rehearsals some moments start to really grab you, and you begin to see what the play will end up being. Sometimes a minute change affected by an actor or a note from Dominic can really illuminate a facet of the play that we didn’t understand before. This has made each day feel charged with energy and promise.

Other elements of the production have also started to come together this week. Bits and pieces of costume have started to come into the rehearsal room and temporary props are gradually being replaced with items that Tom Piper, our designer, is happy with. Clare McKenzie, our composer, is making progress on the music that will accompany the production and Matt Padden has been working on pieces of pre-recorded sound too. At the end of the week we welcomed our marketing team to the rehearsal room, along with Rachael from Home Manchester, to shoot our trailer and to take some footage of rehearsals.

All of this work can sometimes feel like it takes you out of the room and away from rehearsals, but it’s vitally important in order to make every aspect of the production as good as it can be. There is such a positive atmosphere around the theatre and with creating the best work possible being the guiding principle for everyone collaborating on the project we know this effort will contribute to an exceptional production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Long Day's Journey Into Night runs at the Citizens Theatre from 13 Apr - 5 May.

It will then go to HOME Manchester 10 - 26 May

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Get to know Eugene O’Neill ahead of Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Eugene O’Neill is one of the most influential writers of the 20thcentury, without him there would be no Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams or Sam Shepard. His Long Day’s Journey Into Night is considered a pinnacle of 20th century American theatre. The autobiographical story is so personal and candid that O’Neill says he wrote it in “blood and tears”, and wouldn't allow it to be published in his lifetime.

So, here's five things you should know about the great American playwright. Swot up and impress your friends ahead of the show!

Eugene O'Neill in 1936
By Nobel Foundation, via Wikimedia Commons

1.       Eugene O’Neill‘s father was an actor whose greatest success was on the road so the family spent most of their lives travelling. O’Neill was actually born in a hotel room in Times Square, New York in 1888. He also died in a hotel room – in Boston in 1953.

2.       Like the character of Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, O’Neill battled tuberculosis. It was while he was recovering from his illness in a sanatorium that he found his calling as a playwright.

3.       O’Neill is the only American dramatist to be awarded the Nobel Prize, and the only person to have won four Pulitzer Prizes. He first won the Pulitzer Prize aged 31 for Beyond the Horizon. He was also awarded the prize for Anna Christie, Strange Interlude and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. 

4.       O’Neill wrote Long Day’s Journey Into Night for his third wife Carlotta Monterey on their 12th wedding anniversary. He requested that the play only be published 25 years after his death. His widow, however, waited just three years and the play was released in 1956. 

5.      O’Neill  continues to be referenced in literature and film. Jack Nicholson played Eugene O’Neill in Warren Beatty’s 1981 film Reds. Nicholson was nominated for the Academy Award for best Supporting Actor for his performance. 

Lorn Macdonald and Bríd Ní Neachtain in rehearsals for Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day’s Journey Into Night runs at the Citizens Theatre from 13 Apr – 5 May.
It will then go to HOME Manchester 10 - 26 May.


Amanda Gaughan

All of us at the Citizens Theatre were sad to hear the news this week of the death of theatre director Amanda Gaughan.

Amanda Gaughan. Image from Playwrights' Studio Scotland
Amanda was at the Citizens as a Trainee Director in 2011- 12, when she worked on Dennis Kelly's After the End and Roman Bridge by Martin Travers. She recently worked again with Martin on Annville, his new play in Scots and English which was presented at the Citizens Theatre, and at New Lanark and the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Amanda also directed a number of productions for the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and the National Theatre of Scotland. 

Martin Travers, our Learning Producer, said this of Amanda: "Amanda Gaughan was creatively fearless. She had a fiery desire to make great work and had a gift for understanding the all too human relationships in plays that make theatre dramatic and emotionally charged.  She was a rare and precious talent. A Scottish female director that could deliver big plays onto main stages but was also brilliant when developing new writing – she could cut a new play like a jeweller cuts stones. We’ll miss her laugh and we’ll miss her smile and her energy and passion for life and theatre-making."

Everyone at the Citizens Theatre is thinking of Amanda's friends and families, and remembering the time that Amanda spent with us. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Researching Long Day's Journey Into Night

Assistant Director George Nichols shares all the latest news from the Long Day's Journey Into Night rehearsal room. In week two they're exploring the historical context of the play.

George Costigan and Bríd Ní Neachtain in rehearsals
Long Day’s Journey Into Night takes place over one day in the life of the Tyrone family. This week we’ve concentrated on the second half of the play, which takes place in the late afternoon as it turns into night. As we discover more about the lives of the family we’ve had to learn more about the world of the play too, so this week’s blog looks at some of the research we’ve had to do.

An important but challenging aspect of the play that comes to the fore as we move to the latter scenes is the effect alcohol has on the characters. Attitudes to drinking in 1911 were very different to today and many families in America drank hard liquor habitually. At this time whisky was a common drink to have with your lunch and in the decade before prohibition in the 1920s America was consuming more alcohol per head than ever before. In the early 20th century the US was a melting pot of different nationalities and the drinking traditions of these countries, paired with the perception that alcohol was safer than dirty water, contributed to a heavy drinking culture.

Sam Phillips in rehearsals
Understanding this culture has been important for the actors because of its effect on the physical and mental capabilities of the characters as they become more inebriated. One of the challenges is understanding how much alcohol it takes to really affect the characters in the play, when the regularity with which the characters drank meant they were much better at holding their liquor than the average person from the 21st century. Another challenge is keeping track of how much a character has drunk to ensure their characteristics do not become inconsistent.

We want the world of the play to feel as real as possible and we’ve used lots of research to inform this, for example: tobacco culture. While some people smoked cigarettes in this period the main way people consumed tobacco was either by sniffing it (snuff) or by smoking a pipe. We’ve also had to look at the literature referenced in the play and the lives and poems of writers like Baudelaire, Swinburne, Wilde and Kipling. This extra reading means we can better appreciate the significance this work would have for the characters in the play.

Research is just one strand of our work that informs the staging of the play but it’s really important in understanding why characters act the way they do. It also means that as much as possible our decisions about the play are based in fact and not supposition.

13 Apr - 5 May

Friday, 16 March 2018

Q & A with Come Hell or High Water Composer Finn Anderson

Come hell or High Water is a community led production that focuses on people's hopes and fears for a future after Brexit. With a diverse cast of 25, some of whom have experienced long-term unemployment, the criminal justice system and addiction services, it draws on a series of workshops, discussions, improvisations and interviews that have taken place since October 2017.

Composer Finn Anderson has created a live score of original music and songs for the production. We sat down with him to find out more about the process.

You’ve worked with the Citz on a few productions now (Buckets, One More Sleep ‘til Christmas), how does Come Hell or High Water compare?

In terms of the process it has been completely different to anything I’ve worked on here before, or anything I’ve ever worked on! We’ve been working with the group since October. The first two months were just us all getting together, drinking tea and coffee, and talking about Brexit and what it means to be British. It was a very open space to share views and debate, and to get to know each other. The next stage was trying to shape those conversations into a piece of theatre. It feels like we’ve created a community in the room that has then become a cast. That is really unique.

This is the first time that I’ve worked on a production at the Citizens with lots of songs. I really love writing songs, and marrying music and words together. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to do that with the company here which has been really exciting. It’s also unusual as nearly all the words in the play, and definitely all the lyrics, are verbatim – they’ve come from real interviews with real people across Glasgow and Scotland.

So in all of those ways it is completely different to my previous work at the Citz!

How much work did you do in advance of rehearsals and how much is developed in the room?

The preparation phase was really the time we spent early on, having conversations over tea in the rehearsal room. During this time cast members also interviewed their friends and family about what it means to be British, about Brexit and about how it might impact their lives and about what it means to be living in Glasgow – whether you are a refugee that has recently moved to the city or you have lived here all your life. A lot of the content that has found its way into the script has come from these interviews, as well as our discussions in the room.

Were there opposing views in the room?

Yes there were opposing views in the room! And it’s so rare to have a space where a group of people can openly discuss their conflicting views, and at the same time work together towards a shared goal. It’s great because the group of participants have also now become a really good group of friends too. I think what has been really key is creating a supportive space where everyone feels they can share openly and won’t be judged for it.

What does your role of Composer entail?

As a composer I always tend to take musical style for any piece from the story, the characters and the setting. My role here is slightly different as I have the added responsibility of authentically representing different people’s opinions. So, rather than selecting a musical style what I’ve done is focus on what people have said and how they’ve said it, taking the rhythms of someone’s speech and using that to inform the rhythm of the music. For example, if someone said something really fast, or they had particular emphasis on a specific word, I’ve tried to incorporate that into the music.

My task has been putting all our different conversations to music without losing the original meanings and intentions behind the words. I’m aiming to create something that is accurate as well as theatrically and musically exciting. This has been a really fun challenge for me as composer.

Finn and the cast in rehearsals

What styles of music can we expect to hear in the show? Is it quintessentially British?

What I’ve done with the songs is pull out small excerpts from the interviews and tried to find hooks in them. I’ve selected parts that sound like they have a good rhythm or could be repeated as a chorus.  So, it is not a classical sound; it is not a particularly folksy sound. It has quite a catchy, upbeat feel to it.

Within that there will also be elements of Scottish folk, as well as different music from the many different cultures in the room, and the rich musical heritage that comes from all those different places.  I’ve tried to marry that with a musical theatre style.

Wow, that sounds like a really interesting mix!

It is a bit bonkers but somehow it works! It’s nice because everyone involved recognises their own voices in the songs.

What has been your favourite part of the process?

There are a few things. Firstly, getting to work with a group of 25 singers is very rare as a professional composer in the theatre – you hardly ever get to work with a company of that size. It’s also been brilliant working with such a diverse group of people on a joint project.  Meeting up with everyone on a regular basis over the past few months has been very special. Personally, it has really reconnected me to the joy of making theatre, of why I do it and why it is important. I’ve also loved getting to explore this particular topic through music. 

And what about the most challenging part of the process?

I would say the music – because all the lyrics are verbatim a lot of the music is very fast, and the rhythms are complex and difficult to learn. Trying to sing in the rhythm of someone else’s speech is actually quite tricky! These guys are doing an incredible job, but that’s a challenge for all of us.

The other big challenge is that balance between creating an exciting and theatrical show and being authentic. As soon as you put some sad music under something that was said, it suddenly makes it ten times sadder than that person intended. That’s fine if you are telling a fantastical, magical story but when you are putting real people’s words on stage you have to be more sensitive about using music to support those words without allowing it to change the meaning of them. This piece has been a real challenge from that point of view.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the project?

I think this production is special because there is room for everybody and all their different opinions. I feel like the atmosphere we’ve created in the rehearsal room, where people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities feel their voice is valid, is something that should be found in more theatre foyers and audiences around the country. For me, it is exciting to be in a theatrical environment where everybody comes from completely different backgrounds but we are all united in a shared passion. I think that theatre has a unique ability to achieve that.

Sounds like you are going to miss your twice weekly meetings

I really am! It has been a highlight of the past six months for me. 

Come Hell or High Water is one of 50 new works commissioned by Sky Art’s Art 50 project, all on the theme of what it means to be British following the EU referendum. See it in the Citizens Theatre Circle Studio 21-24 March

Friday, 9 March 2018

Long Day's Journey Into Night : Inside the Rehearsal Room

Rehearsals for Long Day's Journey Into Night began this week and it's been wonderful to welcome old and new friends to the Citz to get torn into this epic American drama. Here, Assistant Director George Nichols shares his insights from behind the scenes:

With a masterpiece like Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night you want to make the most of every second of your rehearsals in order to bring the play to life; there’s no use in a slow start. So once we had all introduced ourselves and looked at Tom Piper’s stunning and atmospheric design we got straight to it. Dominic expressed his excitement at working with such a talented group of actors (George Costigan, Dani Heron, Lorn Macdonald, Bríd Ní Neachtain, and Sam Phillips) on what is surely one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century and he laid out how he sees the production and what he hopes we will achieve in the coming weeks.

As we started to work through the play the cast were struck by how the dialogue sounded so natural and real whilst also having a deep poetic resonance. This tempers the ugliness of much of the play, which deals with the raw wounds and bitterness at the heart of the Tyrone family. Even though we’re still in the early stages the tension and drama that permeate much of the text already feel very present which bodes well for when we get to share it with our audience in five weeks time.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we were blessed with the company and tutelage of our dialect coach Penny Dyer. The accents in Long Day’s Journey are particularly important as they act like a map of the characters’ lives. We should hear their heritage, and in the case of James and Jamie their professions too. The specificity of Penny’s work allows us strive toward an authentic and detailed production. As the play is epic in scale, both in length and subject matter, it is important we create a world that is specific and thorough in order to provide the best platform for this tornado of a play to take place. Useful companions in this regard are the many biographies which cover the life of Eugene O’Neill. While it would be unhelpful to suggest the play is an exact telling of O’Neill’s life, biographical information helps us to fill in the gaps in the world we are creating.

Already we are finding the work thrilling, and as we progress the play reveals more and more of its secrets to us. We’re looking forward to the coming weeks, and to getting completely swept away by the tornado.

13 Apr - 5 May

Long Day's Journey Into Night is a co-production with HOME Manchester
Supported by Friends of the Citizens
By arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited

Thursday, 8 March 2018

SOS - #SaveOurStatues

To mark International Women's Day 2018, we are celebrating our inspirational muses, who have been watching over our foyer for several years. 

The Citizens Theatre Muses with Robert Burns & William Shakespeare, 1977
By John Crallan
The muses were created specifically for the Palace Theatre, which shared a frontage with the Citizens Theatre, by sculptor John Mossman. Mossman is responsible for many of the public statues in Glasgow, including the statues of Robert Burns and William Shakespeare which also stand in our foyer.

The statues represent the inspiration the muses have provided in the fields of Music (Euterpe), Comedy (Thalia), Tragedy (Melpomene) and Dance (Terpsichore).

They lived on top of the Palace Theatre until 1977 when the building was demolished. 

Citz Exterior Facade, 1977 by John Crallan

The muses, as well as the statues of Burns and Shakespeare, were rescued before the Palace's demolition by members of the company, who recognised their historical significance and their vital connection to the origins of the theatre. They later found a new home in the Citizens Theatre. 

Shakespeare being rescued from The Palace roof, 1977

As part of our redevelopment we'll be returning them to pride of place on top of the building, but they need a bit of TLC first! The muses have suffered over the years and require substantial restoration. Our planned conservation work will preserve the statues and improve their appearance by:
  • Restoring missing and damaged parts
  • Removing paint spots
  • Preventing water damage at vulnerable locations

Artist impression of redeveloped Citizens Theatre, set to open to the public in late 2020 

The restoration of each muse will cost £10,000. With just 100 donations of £100 each, we can save one of the muses, return them to their rightful place and ensure they keep inspiring future generations of theatregoers and Glaswegians.

If you'd like to contribute to the Citizens' redevelopment campaign and help #SaveOurStatues you can make a donation of £100, or any amount, here. 

The restoration of our muses is part of our wider building redevelopment to conserve, repair and expand our much loved home in the Gorbals. To find out more about the project please visit