Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dominic Hill - The Citizens Theatre's Spring 2015 70th Anniversary Season

When the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow announced earlier this year that
the centrepiece of the theatre's  seventieth anniversary Spring season
in 2015 would be a new production of John Byrne's play, The Slab Boys,
it confirmed excited whispers which had been circulating for some time.
The Slab Boys, after all, has become a bona fide modern classic since
it premiered at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 1978.

The fact that it will be directed by David Hayman, who had directed the
original production of the play that redefined Scottish theatre
thirty-six years ago gave the news an extra frisson. After blazing a
trail as part of the legendary 1970s Citz ensemble, The Slab Boys will
be Hayman's second return to his theatrical alma mater under its
current artistic director Dominic Hill's tenure, following his
barn-storming turn in the title role of Hill's production of King Lear.

Today's exclusive announcement in the Herald confirms that the
remainder of the Citz's Spring 2015  season looks set to be equally
special.

“We wanted to do work that was close to home,” Hill explains. “John and
David have been talking to me about doing it here for some time. It
feels like the right theatre to do it, and a nice celebratory way to
start the year.”

The second major Citizens production will be a new play by Douglas
Maxwell. Fever Dream: Southside is a Glasgow-set study of life in
Govanhill during a heatwave. With a clear umbilical link between the
comedy of truth that fires both Byrne and Maxwell's work down the
generations, Fever Dream: Southside will also mark a production of
Maxwell's first big play since If Destroyed True several years back.

“It's a play about fatherhood,” says Hill, “and focuses on the fears of
new parents brining up a child in a city. The play has this almost
Johnsonian sense of larger than life characters in a community, and is
kind of a play about home and people's need for beliefs. There's this
entire community of characters written in these wonderful bright
colours that Douglas brings to his work. Douglas isn't afraid to be
funny, and there's a real vitality to his work, but there's real
integrity to it as well.”

There are even more links to the ghosts of Citizens past in the
company's third in-house production. Into That Darkness is Robert David
Macdonald's stage adaptation of a book by historian Gitta Sereny, in
which she interviewed Franz Stangl, the extermination camp commandant
who was finally convicted for the murder of more than one million
people in Nazi extermination camps in 1970.

“I read the book years ago,” says Hill, “and thought then that it would
make a great piece of theatre. Then when I came here I found out that
Robert David Macdonald had done it, so it seemed a real opportunity to
have another look at it.”

The new main-stage production will be directed by Gareth Nicholls,
currently the Citz's Main Stage Director in Residence, a post shared
between the Citizens and Stewart Laing's Untitled Projects, and
supported by Creative Scotland's Creative Futures Programme and the
Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Into That Darkness will be Nicholls's
first main-stage show after assisting Hill on Hamlet.

In terms of visiting companies, Hill's programme continues to forge
links with companies who have now become Citizens regulars as well as
fostering brand new alliances. The season will open with what looks set
to be a fascinating production of Macbeth by the ever adventurous
Filter Theatre, while in March, Headlong return with a brand new look
at David Hare's 1993 play, The Absence of War, which looks at a
charismatic Labour Party leader's attempts to be elected into power.

“I like the idea that we connect with companies,” Hill says, “and for
audiences to develop a relationship with them. I wanted to see Filter
doing something more serious, and the resonances of The Absence of War
in the run-up to the UK General Election and everything that's going on
in the Labour Party are huge.”

Absence of War will be followed by Lippy, Bush Moukarzel's play for
Ireland's Dead Centre company, which was a hit in this year's Edinburgh
Festival Fringe, where it was given a Herald Angel award. Lippy will
form part of the off-site programme of the Arches 2015 Behaviour
festival, and will be the first time the two very different venues have
collaborated.

“The response to that show in Edinburgh was so huge,” says Hill, “that
I thought it was important that it was seen on this side of the
country. The opportunity to work with the Arches as well is really
interesting, and may open up the Citizens to a different kind of
audience.”

Beyond Spring 2015, the Citizens team are also busy fund-raising for
the multimillion pound Capital Project, which will see a major
refurbishment of the theatre and its facilities. With a projected £16
million budget needing to be sourced, a healthy £11.4 million has
already been secured from a mix of Heritage Lottery Fund (£4.9
million), Glasgow City Council (£4 million), Creative Scotland (£1.5
million) and £500,000 apiece from Historic Scotland and the Robertson
Trust.

While the Capital Project might appear to be well on track to fruition,
Hill can't afford to become complacent, especially with tomorrow's
announcement by Creative Scotland which will outline which arts bodies
will receive subsidy from their Regular Funding scheme. Given a track
record which last weekend saw the Citizens win an Arts and Business
award for their Commonwealth programme this year, it seems unlikely
that the Gorbals-based institution will lose out in any major way, but
Hill isn't taking anything for granted.

“Like most organisations,” he says, “the Citizens is looking for an in
increase in what we normally get from Creative Scotland, but they've
already said that there has been more money applied for than there is
available. I can't second-guess what the decision might be, but while
we're very good at managing to make as much work as we can with what
we've got, like everyone else we're at the very edge of our finances.
One thing we've tried to do at the Citz is increase the amount of our
own work that goes on, and standstill funding or a cut especially would
make that very hard to sustain.”

Tickets for all shows in the Citizens Theatre's Spring 2015 season go
on sale from today.
www.citz.co.uk

ends

The Citz Spring 2015 – At A Glance
Macbeth – January 20-31
Shakespeare's Scottish play has been done in a myriad of way, with
several great productions seen on the Citz stage. Filter Theatre have
become masters of reinventing the classics, and follow up their
production of Twelfth Night with a version of Macbeth that fuses the
play with an innovative soundscape.

The Garden – January 22-24
The Citizens Circle studio opens up for this opera by the husband and
wife artistic team of composer John Harris and writer/director Zinnie
Harris based on Zinnie Harris' short play of the same name. Originally
commissioned by the Sound festival in Aberdeen, The Garden is a gentle
tale of love and hope in a high-rise flat during the last days of the
world.

The Slab Boys - February 12-March 7
When John Byrne's tale of a couple of work-shy Paisley teddy boys with
ambitions beyond the factory floor first appeared in 1978 at the
Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, its mix of baroque banter and working
class experience redefined what was possible on the Scottish stage. At
the directorial helm was actor David Hayman, who revisits the play in
this new production in which he also appears.

Long Live The Little Knife – February 24-28
David Leddy's play about art, forgery and castration is revived by
Leddy's Fire Exit company for the Circle Studio, as a pair of
small-time con artists attempt to become the world's greatest
counterfeiters, despite their very obvious lack of skills with a
paintbrush.

The Absence of War  - March 31-April 3
David Hare's 1993 play was the final part of a trilogy that looked at
the powers behind the British state. Where Racing Demons examined the
church and Murmuring Judges law and order, The Absence of War inspired
by the defeat of the Labour Party in the UK General Election a year
earlier. Headlong's new production following visits to the Citz with
Medea, The Seagull and 1984 brings the play to Scotland for the first
time at what is a crucial time for the Labour Party on both sides of
the border.

Lippy - April 8-11
Bush Markouzal's Herald Angel winning Edinburgh hit may have drawn
inspiration from the deaths of three women who starved themselves to
death, but the Dead Centre theatre company's production is no social
document. Rather, the play's explosion of forms questions notions of
how you tell other people's stories. The show's Glasgow dates also mark
the Citz's first collaboration with the Arches Behaviour Festival

Fever Dream: Southside - April 23-May 9
Douglas Maxwell's first new play for some time is set in Glasgow's
Govanhill district, where bringing up children in a neighbourhood awash
with unique characters make for a surreal comic thriller that looks at
the vagaries of community spirit and city life. Dominic Hill directs.

Into That Darkness - May 18-30
Former Citz director Robert David Macdonald's adaptation of journalist
Gitta Sereny's book based on sixty hours of interviews with  Franz
Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor extermination
camps, was first seen in the 1990s. The original production featured
Macdonald as Stangl, who acted opposite Roberta Taylor who recently
played Gertrude in Dominic Hill's production of Hamlet. This new
production is overseen by the theatre's Main Stage Director in
Residence, Gareth Nicholls.

The Herald, October 28th 2014


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