It was former Citizens Theatre boss Giles Havergal who told the Gorbals emporium's current artistic director Dominic Hill that Dr Faustus had never been produced at the theatre during his tenure. Given the body of classical plays produced with such flamboyant verve during Havergal's thirty year reign over the theatre along with fellow directors Robert David Macdonald and Philip Prowse, that Christopher Marlowe's play had never been tackled in the Gorbals came as a surprise to Hill.
Today's exclusive announcement in the Herald of the Citz's forthcoming Spring 2013 season finds Hill addressing this oversight by putting Dr Faustus at the centre of a programme that aims to make the classical contemporary. As tickets go on sale today for all shows, we can also announce that Hill's production of Dr Faustus will reunite him with the creative team behind his production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt while in charge of Dundee Rep.
As well as writer Colin Teevan coming on board to rewrite the play's weakest and most contested acts, Dr Faustus will be a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse, who recently appointed Hill's former co-director at Dundee Rep, James Brining, as artistic director.
“I've always loved the play,” Hill says of Dr Faustus, “and I'm fascinated, as I think a lot of people are, by the idea of what is good and evil in the modern world, by the fact that we supposedly live in a secular society, but how, in the world of entertainment, the supernatural, the divine and ghosts still predominate. The way that Faustus thinks that fame, wealth and sex are missing from his life, that couldn't be more current.”
As well as Dr Faustus, Hill's new programme will join the dots between all the theatres he has run in other ways. Director and designer Stewart Laing will return to the theatre where he defined his career with a production of Jean Genet's The Maids, a play which continues Laing's ongoing inquiry into the European avant-garde in keeping with his early work at the Citz. Genet's play hasn't been seen in the Gorbals since Lindsay Kemp's production at the Citz's studio offshoot, The Close, in 1971. Kemp's take on the play featured a young Tim Curry in as cast originally meant to take the show to London before the plug was pulled on it by Genet's agent. Genet was also favourite of the directorial triumvirate, with The Blacks, The Balcony and The Screens produced during the 1980s.
“It's a tricky play to get right,” Hill admits, “but, rather than hark back to something that the Citz is renowned for, I think Stewart has the right aesthetic sensibility to make it sexy and shocking enough for today.”
Laing will also bring his hit participatory event, The Salon Project, to the Citizens following Laing's Untitled Productions' successful run at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre. It was while Hill was in charge of that theatre prior to moving west that he first enabled Laing to create The Salon Project, which dressed the entire audience in period costumes, many of which were sourced from the Citz.
“I feel very attached to it, “ Hill says, “and it seems right for here before Stewart takes it to London.”
Inbetween The Maids and The Salon Project, the Citizens will collaborate with Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre – one of the few main stages Hill hasn't been in charge of – for Donna Franceschild's new stage version of her 1990s TV drama, Takin' Over The Asylum. Franceschild's hit show was an early chance to see both David Tennant and Ken Stott on a small screen, and Royal Lyceum director Mark Thomson's new look at the script is a perfect example of Hill's second priority for the Citz.
“I've always said that what we're about is classic plays and Glasgow plays,” he says. “They don't fit together, but the tension between the two is really exciting.”
Following the Citz's co-production with Headlong on Mike Bartlett's new version of Medea starring Rachael Stirling, the two companies continue what has proved to be a fruitful partnership with a new look at Chekhov's The Seagull.
“Again,” says Hill, “it's a classic play, and, although it's not a re-write like Medea, it won't feel like dusty Chekhov. It will feel relevant and contemporary, and it feels right that it's in our programme
The season will end with a double bill of Far Away and Seagulls, two short plays by Caryl Churchill, whose best known play, Top Girls, was seen in a production at the Citizens in 2004. The double bill, directed by Hill, occupies the same slot as his productions of Endgame and Footfalls, two solo pieces by Samuel Beckett rarely seen on a big stage.
“These are contemporary classics,” Hill says of Churchill's plays. “Far Away starts off quite ordinary, then goes somewhere quite surreal. Caryl Churchill is a genius of a writer, and she should be done more here.”
As he talks, Hill is taking time out from rehearsals for Sleeping Beauty, his first Christmas show since taking over the theatre. “Sleeping Beauty slightly reminds me of The Three Musketeers,” Hill says of Chris Hannan's play, which Hill directed at the Traverse. “It's neither a pantomime or a Christmas show, and it also slightly reminds me of Ubu [which Hill directed at Dundee Rep], in that it's slightly anarchic.”
Beyond these other nods to the past, Hill's season clearly has its eye on the future.
“I've only done one year here,” he says, “but this season feels much more like what I want this place to be in terms of reinterpretations of classic plays. Both Dr Faustus and The Maids. have an epic universality about them. They're both about big things, and that's what I think the Citizens should be about, creating theatre for a modern audience that's about the things that matter in life. I've said it a million times, but I believe in the idea of theatre as an event and an experience, and I think a lot of the shows in the season will have that sense of an event. In that way, I hope we're looking forwards rather than backwards,”
Tickets for the Citizens Theatre's Spring 2013 season go on sale today.
Citizens Theatre Spring 2013 Season At A Glance
Thu 17 January – Sat 2 February
Hamilton Town House
Thur 7 February – Sat 9 February,
TAKIN’ OVER THE ASYLUM
Thu 14 February - Sat 9 March
This production will also play at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 13 Mar – 6 Apr
THE SALON PROJECT
Fri 15 March – Sat 23 March
This production will also play at the Barbican London, 4 Apr –14 April
GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL
Mon 25 March – Sat 30 March, 8.30pm
Thu 4 April – Sat 27 April
Wed 1 – Sat 11 May
FAR AWAY & SEAGULLS
Thu 23 May – Sat 8 June
The Herald, November 20th 2012
The Herald, November 20th 2012