When playwright and film star Sam Shepard appeared on the stage of the Citizens Theatre following the final performance of the Gorbals-based emporium's production of Shepard's 1980 play, True West, it was a fitting close to the theatre's winter season prior to the opening of its Christmas show, The Jungle Book, this weekend. Here, after all, was a latter-day Hollywood legend with counter-cultural credentials. If ever there was an artist who encapsulated the Citz's own schizophrenic history of classical glamour with an edge, Shepard was it.
“It created a real buzz,” says Citizens artistic director, Dominic Hill. “It's exactly what the Citz should be about. For us, it's about saying that, yes, we're in Glasgow, and, yes, we're in the Gorbals, but as well as being local, we've also got an international outlook , and an aspiration to continue that international outlook which the theatre's always had.”
Following a season that also saw Chris Hannan adapt Dostoyevsky's novel, Crime and Punishment, such attributes are in even more abundance in the Citz's 2014 spring season, revealed here exclusively by the Herald as tickets for all shows go on sale today. Nowhere is this more evident than in a major revival of Stephen Jeffreys' 1994 play, The Libertine. Jeffreys' play is a ribald study of seventeenth poet, playwright and hedonistic lad about town John Wilmot, aka the second Earl of Rochester.
“It's a play I've wanted to do for a long time,” Hill says. “I wanted to do something in period to try and capture that wonderful theatrical exuberance that was so much a part of the old Citz. With The Libertine, we can have our cake and eat it, because it has all the joy and wit of a Restoration comedy, but without having to filter it through 400 years of shifts of language. The Libertine is a very funny play. It's hugely theatrical and incredibly rude. It's about excess, and a man who was a sort of rock and roll celebrity of his age who is eventually destroyed by that excess.”
Prior to The Libertine, Hill will direct Zinnie Harris' version of August Strindberg's dark study of cross-class sexual desire, Miss Julie. Normally regarded as a chamber piece, Hill once again puts a play more often seen in studio spaces onto the main stage.
“The play is extraordinary, and Zinnie's text is great,” Hill points out. “Zinnie's made it about more than what made the play so shocking when it was first done. So it's more than a story about a posh girl sleeping with a servant. There's much more here about sexual politics between a man and a woman rather than just class.”
The Citz 2014 season begins, however, with the first Glasgow sighting of Ciara, David Harrower's study of one woman's uneasy relationship with art and crime. The play won a Herald Angel for actress Blythe Duff when she performed it at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in August, and this revival of a co-production between the Traverse and Duff's Datum Point company promises an even greater impact when it arrives in the city in which it is set.
Ciara will be followed later in January by a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night by the experimentally inclined Filter company.
February marks the return of Glasgow Girls, David Greig and Cora Bissett's hit musical play based on the real life story of a group of Drumchapel schoolgirl asylum seekers who took on the establishment and won. Co-produced by the Citizens, the National Theatre of Scotland and an array of other partners, Glasgow Girls arrives back on home turf following a nomination by the Theatre Marketing Nomination for Best Musical Production.
“It's a show that's developed a lot since it was first here,” Hill points out, “and 2014 seemed like the right time to bring it back to Glasgow.”
Multi-culturalism is similarly on the agenda in Refugee Boy, Lemn Sissay's stage version of fellow poet Benjamin Zephaniah's novel about a fourteen year old Ethiopian boy's experiences in London. Refugee Boy will tour to the Citz in a production by West Yorkshire Playhouse.
This will be followed by a revival of Scottish Opera's production of Verdi's Macbeth, which Hill first directed for the company in 2005.
With the Citz becoming a major venue for the Glasgow International Comedy Festival during the first week in April, it seems fitting that this is followed by Vanishing Point's tribute to the late poet and story-teller, Ivor Cutler. As revealed in these pages earlier this year, The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler sees Vanishing Point team up with the National Theatre of Scotland for a loving homage to this unique figure and the absurd world he occupied.
With the Glasgow Commonwealth Games raising the city's profile, the Citz responds with Sports Day. This large-scale show brings together a compendium of short pieces by major Scottish playwrights responding to the theme of a school sports day. These will then be knitted together to create a new piece of community theatre.
“It's important for us that our non-professional work gets a high profile,” Hill says, “and, as with everything else in the season, we want it to be on the main stage.”
Beyond 2014, Hill has the Citz's 70th birthday in 2015 to think about. There is the small matter too of raising some 14 million GBP over the next three years for ambitious plans to upgrade the theatre's facilities as well as its physical structure in order to make it fit for twenty-first century purpose. A model of the proposed plans sits in Hill's office, symbolising an even brighter future for the Citizens Theatre than the Spring season already promises.
“The Spring season is always so much longer than the Autumn,” Hill points out. “This allows us the opportunity to programme more diverse work. In 2014, especially, with the referendum and the Commonwealth Games, Scotland and Glasgow are going to be under the spotlight even more than they normally are. We didn't want to ignore that. We want to programme a season of work that encapsulates the spirit of aspiration that exists here, and that makes theatre a real event.”
Tickets for the Citizens Theatre's 2014 spring season are on sale now.
Citizens Theatre Season 2014 – At A Glance
Ciara (January 21-25) – Blythe Duff returns in David Harrower's hit solo play which won a Herald Angel when it premiered at the Traverse in 2013.
Twelfth Night (January 28-February 1) Originally commissioned by former Tron Theatre director Michael Boyd for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sean Holmes and Filter reinvent Shakespeare’s rom-com as a rock and roll rollercoaster of wit and passion
Miss Julie (February 6-15) IN the first Citizens company production of the season, Dominic Hill directs Zinnie Harris' version of August Strindberg's play. First seen in 2006 in a production by the National Theatre of Scotland, Miss Julie is reset in rural Scotland during the 1920s.
Glasgow Girls (February 20-March 8) Cora Bissett and David Greig's impassioned musical based on the real-life tale of a group of schoolgirl refugees who take on the system returns following a successful London run.
Refugee Boy (March 12-15) Poet Lemn Sissay adapts fellow wordsmith Benjamin Zephaniah's novel about a teenage refugee boy for the stage in a production by West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Verdi's Macbeth (March 22-29) Revival of Dominic Hill's Scottish Opera production of Verdi's classic, first seen in 2005.
Glasgow International Comedy Festival (April 1-5)As one of the main venues for the festival, the Citz will see the likes of Miles Jupp, Rory Bremner and Ruby Wax grace its stage.
The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler (April 9-20) Vanishing Point team up with the National Theatre of Scotland for an impressionistic homage to one of Scotland's greatest wordsmiths.
The Libertine (May 3-24) – First seen in 1994 in a production b y Max Stafford-Clark and filmed a decade later with Johnny Depp in the title role, Stephen Jeffreys' play about poet, playwright and 24/7 hedonist John Wilmot receives its long overdue Scottish premiere in Hill's production.
Sports Day (June 4-7) A large-scale revue-like compendium of scenes and songs written by a host of Scottish playwrights and based around the run-up to a school sports day. Performed by a non-professional cast, the show will be presented to tie in with the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
The Herald, November 26th 2013