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Citizens Theatre Spring Season 2008

When tickets go on sale next week for the Citizens Theatre’s Spring 2008 season - revealed exclusively in The Herald today- it will mark something of a watershed for its joint artistic directors, Jeremy Raison and Guy Hollands. Because Hollands’ appearance directing both a main-stage classic and a brand new studio piece aimed specifically at an 8-12 year old age group suggests the ongoing realignment between The Citz and TAG is now in place.

Yet no longer will the second company be regarded as ‘merely’ its big brother’s young people theatre wing as it was sometimes regarded when founded 40 years ago. Rather, following a good few years when it at times appeared to be a stepping stone for directors to tick the worthy box with en route to somewhere else (former directors Ian Wooldridge went to Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum, Ian Brown to The Traverse then West Yorkshire Playhouse and James Brining to Dundee Rep), TAG is fully in tune with its remit once more while able to capitalise on the increasing respect for young peoples theatre as a significant art-form in itself.

So while the season’s flag-ship production will be Hollands’ main-stage look at Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, Liar is a new work by Davey Anderson which marks the culmination of two years of development in association with mixed ability musical specialists Sound Of Progress. While Liar’s remit is clear, if Godot isn’t already on the school syllabus, then this seminal piece of existential vaudeville certainly should be. Add on a main stage production of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by an alliance of the theatre’s Community Company, Young Company plus new company members from Turning Point Scotland, as a follow-up to this year’s Ice Cream Dreams, and it’s clear how inclusively broad the Citz/TAG axis has become.

“It’s all about joined-up thinking,” Hollands observes, “which is something neither company has ever really capitalised on to any great extent. You’ve has this great award winning company for children and young people associated with the Citizens Theatre, but its never really had the philosophical space to explore that. This is a natural progression of what’s happened since I came here, and is about playing to out strengths.”

Not, to be honest, that such an apparent change of attitude is anything new. TAG and The Citz have been marketing work from one central pool for well over a year now, culminating in the success story of David Greig’s play, Yellow Moon, directed by Hollands for TAG. What the two new shows specifically directed by Hollands do signal, however, is that there will be greater fluidity and interaction between the two wings of the company than before. What resolutely won’t happen according to Hollands is that one company regarded up till now as the junior partner is gradually absorbed by the other to the extent that its brand disappears.

To illustrate this at a simplistic level somewhat in keeping with the youthful concerns of the two theatre companies, this is what used to happen in the world of children’s comics, whereby a struggling weekly would join forces with a best-seller. Initially advertised as two comics for the price of one, before long the masthead of the weaker party would be printed in increasingly smaller type until it was completely absorbed and its old identity removed from view entirely.

If anything, though, The Citizens Theatre and TAG is simply running different strands of work in parallel. Hollands’ influence will also open up the Citizens to shows produced by Imaginate for the Edinburgh-based Children’s International Theatre Festival. In a more grown-up vein, Raison will adapt Ron Butlin’s Glasgow-set novel, The Sound Of My Voice.

As well as the shows highlighted, The Citz will lead two co-productions involving the national theatre Of Scotland. David Harrower’s version of Pirandello’s Six Characters In Search Of An Author will continue the relationship between the Gorbals based theatre and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum forged via Harrower’s adaptation of Mary Stuart. Continuing the new work strand will be Vanishing Point, whose Subway was a smash hit at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and who will lead a co-production of Little Otik, adapted for the stage from Czech film director Jan Svankmajer’s twisted fairytale.

Highlights of visiting shows include The Arches production of Brian Friel’s Translations and Replico Theatre’s new look at David Hare’s take on La Ronde, The Blue Room. It’s the work for young people though, that stands out simply for being treated on an equal footing.

“There seems to be a cultural shift going on.” says Hollands, “and that’s partly down to the trail-blazing work TAG’s been doing for years, and partly what Imaginate have been doing in bringing over a lot of work from abroad. Both of those have demonstrated how important that sector is, and that’s something TAG and The Citizens are capitalising on now.”

Tickets for The Citizens Theatre’s spring season go on sale on Monday November 26
www.citz.co.uk

The Herald, November 20th 2007

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