The Citizens Theatre has a long and proud history of international work and literary adaptations of iconoclastic classics. Since the Glasgow theatre’s reinvention under co-artistic directors Jeremy Raison and Guy Hollands, it has also developed a fertile strand of original work for young people. As today’s exclusive announcement in The Herald of the Citz’s autumn 2010 season makes plain, all three areas of the theatre’s work are brought home to roost in a variety of ambitiously different ways.
First out of the traps is The Girl In The Yellow Dress (September 21-October 9), a new play by Craig Higginson that sees the Citz co-produce with both Live Theatre, Newcastle, and perhaps more significantly with the much fabled Market Theatre of Johannesburg, South Africa. This is followed by a main-stage production of Anthony Burgess’ iconic depiction of juvenile violence, A Clockwork Orange (October 13-November 6), which will itself be succeeded by a new play for the Citizens affiliated young people’s theatre company, TAG.
The Monster In The Hall (November 2-13) is written by David Greig, and features much of the same team who worked on Greig’s worldwide hit for TAG, Yellow Moon. With a new version of Beauty and The Beast to herald in the festive season, new work by the Citizens Young Company and the Citizens Community Company and plans already in place for Spring 2011, the gradual honing of the Citizens Theatre’s creative identity looks on a sounder footing than ever.
It’s the return of the Market Theatre to these shores, however, that will create a stir among long time theatre-philes who recall the profound effect the company had on our own domestic theatre scene. Raison has had a connection with the market since his days as a trainee director at the Traverse, and reignited the relationship on a visit to South Africa in 2009.
Described by Raison as ‘a distorted love story, The Girl In The Yellow Dress is a major international project that opens in Grahamstown and Cape Town before coming to the UK, where it plays in Newcastle prior to an Edinburgh Festival Fringe run as part of the Traverse Theatre programme. This not only marks the Citz’s first show at the Fringe for many a year, but also reunites the Market Theatre with the company that first housed Woza Albert! Only in September will The Girl In The Yellow Dress arrive in the Gorbals, with further touring possibilities currently being pursued.
The Market Theatre first came to international prominence during South Africa’s apartheid era, when Woza Albert! imagined the second coming of Christ in a racially segregated nation. Higginsion’s most recent play, Dream of the Dog, was seen in Johannesburg prior to a run at London’s tiny Finborough Theatre in a production starring veteran actress Janet Suzman, one of the co-founders of the Market Theatre. Like Dream of the Dog, The Girl in The Yellow Dress looks at the tensions that linger in twenty-first century South Africa.
“The National Festival in Grahamstown where the play opens is very important for the Market Theatre”, Raison points out, “which is trying to find its place in a modern South Africa. There’s a huge debate there about what theatre is doing, and how it helps to heal lots of old wounds. There are also questions being asked about how theatre works in a country with twelve different languages, and trying to cope with what it means in a post apartheid era in what in some ways is a new country in some ways, where theatre is trying to discover its voice.”
Raison himself will be directing A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess’ own stage adaptation of hic controversial novel, later made into an iconic film by Stanley Kubrick. The stage version was successfully produced by TAG almost two decades ago, while another production at Northern Stage in Newcastle received a lengthy run. Part of the show’s appeal at the time was the fact that Kubrick had withdrawn the film from circulation after accusations of copycat violence emerged shortly after its original release. These days, however, it’s perfectly possible to pick up a copy on DVD that is perfectly legal.
“I think A Clockwork Orange is still iconic,” Raison maintains, “though I’m not sure whether we’ll get the same core audience of fourteen and fifteen year olds as the productions that came out when it wasn’t possible to see the film. The challenge is to create our own iconography rather than just copy what’s in the book or the film. We also have to try and make it modern, because a lot of the stuff that was in the book came true. Burgess was always quite dismissive about the book, but there’s something very pure about it.
“The difficulty about it is how to show the violence onstage without it being the most striking thing about the show and derailing it. I also want to go beyond it just about a bunch of kids creating mayhem, then growing out of it. I want to bring out a deeper message that’s pretty prevalent today, that if society is itself violent and oppressive, then that’s going to create a reactionary violence where people try to express their own power.”
Back in the theatre’s Circle Studio, The Monster In The Hall is a lo-fi musical farce with dark undertones written for young people. Somewhat magnificently subtitled Duck and The Duke V. Cat Claws Parsons + The Nameless Dreads (Feat. The Lady from the Social Services), The Monster In The Hall actually sounds closer in aesthetic spirit to Midsummer, Greig’s very grown-up romantic comedy musical that made a virtue of poverty and went on to travel the world.
“David wants to try and find a new form,” observes Hollands, who will be directing the new piece. “A lot of it will be direct address, and all four actors in the show will play musical instruments. It would be easy after Yellow Moon to try and repeat the same formula, but this actually has very little to do with Yellow Moon. One of the things that’s interesting about it is how it deals with the world of young carers, and David is consulting with real young carers just to make sure we don’t get anything wrong.”
A full season of visiting companies will also feature in the Citz’s autumn programme. These include a new play by Douglas Maxwell from Cumbernauld Theatre and the first appearance at the Citz of Scottish Opera with a production of Carmen. If there is any over-riding theme running through the programme, it’s one of change.
“There’s definitely something about transformation running through it,” Raison points out, “although that wasn’t deliberate. There’s something there about people changing their lives for the better in all of the stories on offer, from Alex in A Clockwork Orange and the girl in the Market Theatre piece, right through to what happens in The Monster In The hall and Beauty and the Beast (November 27-December 31). But maybe that’s what all drama is about, the need to change and to make life better for yourself.”
Tickets for the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow’s Autumn 2010 season go on sale on June 14th
The Herald, June 8th 2010