Now that the festive pantomime season has drawn to a close, there is only the briefest pauses for breath before theatres across Scotland open their doors again for what looks like a tantalising year ahead from both home-grown and touring shows. First out the traps is Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Company, with a new production of Eugene O'Neill's family-based epic, A Long Day's Journey into Night (January 17th-February 8th). Tony Cownie will direct a cast that features well-known television faces, Paul Shelley and Diana Kent.
While touring productions of West Side Story (King's Theatre, Glasgow, January 15th-25th) and Evita (Edinburgh Playhouse, January 27th-February 8th) are sure to pack in audiences, the only other Scottish production to open in January is 1933: Eine Nacht Im Kabarett (January 22nd-February 2nd), Tightlaced Theatre's production of Susanna Mulbihill's new play at Summerhall. Focusing on 1930s Berlin and Hitler's rise to power, Mulvihill's play was highlighted on these pages at the end of 2013 as an example of a fertile independent theatre scene in Edinburgh.
On a smaller scale, the ambitious Sell A Door theatre company bring a stage version of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped to the Beacon arts Centre in Greenock (January 16th), while the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow opens its doors, first for a visit from the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh with it's Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit, Ciara (January 21st-25th), starring Blythe Duff, then with Filter's radical reworking of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (January 28th-February 1st).
The biggest draw of January, however, will be the first Scottish sighting of War Horse (Festival theatre, Edinburgh, January 14th-February 15th), the Royal National Theatre's stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel about a boy's relationship with his horse. Apart from the ingenious puppetry in the show, War Horse, which was developed as an experiment in the National Theatre Studio before going on to become a global phenomenon, is probably the best advertisement for the importance of public arts subsidy in enabling ideas to bear fruit.
February sees a flurry of big musicals touring to Scotland, kicking off with a stage version of the Vangelis scored Olympic games set film, Chariots of Fire (King's Theatre, Glasgow, February 4th-8th). Rod Stewart jukebox musical, Tonight's The Night (Edinburgh Playhouse, February 17th-22nd) follows, as does a musical stage version of the 1970s comedy, Happy Days (King's Theatre, Glasgow, February 24th-March 1st).
While the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh hosts the latest instalment of Manipulate (February 3rd-8th), the annual international festival of visual-based theatre, one of the most anticipated shows of February looks set to be Miss Julie (Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, February 6th-15th). Dominic Hill's production uses Zinnie Harris' version of Strindberg's dark chamber piece, which was previously seen in a production by the National Theatre of Scotland, and puts it on the Citz's main stage. With Sherlock star Louise Brealey just announced to play the title role, this may well prove to be one of the highlights of the year.
The Citz will also host the return of Glasgow Girls (February 20th-March 8th), Cora Bissett and David Greig's musical play based on real-life events surrounding a group of young refugee girls who took on the system and won.
Greig makes another appearance in February, this time as director of This Wide Night (Tron Theatre, Glasgow, February 20th-March 15th), Chloe Moss' 2008 play about two women who once shared a prison cell, and who meet up on the outside world. Elaine C Smith and River City star Jayd Johnson play the women in what looks set to be a hard-hitting study of two people holding on to each other for dear life.
In March, the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh opens Union (March 20th-April 12th), a timely new play by Tim Barrow that takes a scurrilous look at how Scotland came to sign the act of Union with England in 1707. Delving even further into history is playwright Howard Brenton in Eternal Love (King's Theatre, Edinburgh, March 18th-22nd), which looks at the romance between twelfth century philosopher Peter Abelard and his pupil, Heloise, in a production first seen at Shakespeare's Globe. If such a set-up sounds obscure to some, bear in mind that Brenton's last play to be seen in Edinburgh, Anne Boleyn, revitalised its subject with a treatment that fused contemporary language with politically-charged satire in one of the best visiting shows of 2012.
There are more politics in April via a touring stage version of Brassed Off (King's Theatre, Edinburgh, April 28th-May 3rd), while Dundee Rep open Cars and Boys (April 11th-26th), a new play by Stuart Paterson that finds a woman battling with her own mortality. he major show this month, however, looks set to be The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler (Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, April 9th-20th).
As reported on these pages in 2013, Vanishing Point's collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland looks set to be an impressionistic homage to the Glasgow-born poet, songwriter and performer who became a cult figure by way of his appearance in the Beatles film, Magical Mystery Tour as well as his numerous radio sessions on the late John Peel's show. With a live band on stage, Matthew Lenton's production will also feature long-term Vanishing Point collaborator Sandy Grierson playing Mr Cutler himself.
In May, the Citz bring decadence back home via The Libertine (May 3rd-24th), Stephen Jeffreys' no holds barred look at the life and times of John Wilmot, poet, pleasure-seeker and the second Earl of Rochester. Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum, meanwhile, presents Pressure (May 1st-24th), a new play by actor David Haig set during World War Two, when Dalkeith-born meteorologist James Stagg must advise General Eisenhower on the best time to send troops across the English Channel in one of the most crucial manoeuvres of the entire war.
Commonwealth Games fever takes hold in June, with the Citz hosting large-scale community show, Sports Day (June 4th-7th), while the NTS take over the South Rotunda building beside the Clyde for another large-scale project, The Tin Forest (dates to be confirmed). All of which should keep audiences busy until the Edinburgh festivals seasons come around. Beyond this, the stage version of Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill's sit-com, Still Game (September 19th-October 9th), has already announced extra shows due to public demand, and looks set to be the biggest post-referendum antidote ever.
The Herald, January 7th 2014