You could be forgiven for thinking that Citizens Theatre artistic director Dominic Hill is taking a breather. As the Herald exclusively announces Hill's plans for the Gorbalas-based theatre's autumn season right through to 2014 as tickets go on sale today, Hill is characteristically laid-back. This despite having just directed his current season's final show, a double bill of Far Away and Seagulls, a double bill of short plays by veteran iconoclast, Caryl Churchill.
In fact, despite appearances to the contrary, Hill is anything but in repose. The afternoon we meet, Hill is in and out of meetings working on a major refurbishment dor the Citz's auditorium, set to take place this summer. He's also working on long-term projects, including developing new musicals which may see the light of day at some point. For the moment, however, before looking forward, Hill allows himself a brief moment of reflection.
“It seems a long time since the beginning of the season,” he says, “when we did The Maids, which was exactly the sort of work I think we should be doing here. It made me feel like we were doing something different from anywhere else in Scotland, and to have that reason for existing felt good.”
Hill capitalised on Stewart Laing's radical take on French writer Jean Genet's rarely performed play with his own production of Doctor Faustus, a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse that inserted two freshly written acts into Christopher Marlowe's already mighty look at good and evil. To follow this, where other theatres might fall prey to the temptation for light relief, the Churchill double bill demonstrated Hill's ambition for the Citz even more.
His new season looks set to go even further, opening as it does with a new stage adaptation by Chris Hannan of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's classic novel, Crime and Punishment. This already announced co-production with the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, will be Hill's first collaboration since Hill was in charge of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre and directed Hannan's reimagining of The Three Musketeers.
“Chris suggested I should read the novel,” Hill says, “and became excited about creating a big piece of storytelling. What's great about the novel is the characters are, not larger than life, because that implies that they're caricatures, but they announce themselves in the way that characters in Chekhov do. I knew that would lend itself to a certain kind of theatricality that Chris and I enjoy, and his version is brilliant. His version is very much about Raskalnikov as a man who has removed himself from society, and then re-engages with the world through his love for Sonya. It's a very moving piece of work.”
Crime and Punishment will be followed on the Citz's main stage by a new production of True West, American playwright Sam Shepard's blistering study of two brothers. In director Philip Breen's first visit to the Citz since his production of Peter Nichols' play, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, one of the brothers will be played by former East Enders star, Alex Ferns, last seen onstage in a major revival of Tom McGrath's The Hardman.
“True West is such a good play, and Sam Shepard is such an amazing playwright,” Hill observes. “He manages to be really theatrical, but in really domestic situations. It's good writing, and Shepard has such a sense of theatre, even though True West is set largely in a kitchen. His characters have a real mania to them, and there's this scene full of toasters, and they keep on popping up.”
Inbetween these two main-house shows, Vox Motus co-director Jamie Harrison will return from working on the west end production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to open his and fellow Vox Motus director Candice Edmunds' long-awaited tour of their new show at the Citz. Dragon, written by Oliver Emanuel, is a co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland and Tianjin Children's Arts Theatre, and tells the story of a boy and a dragon living in Glasgow.
“Vox Motus are based in the building,” says Hill, “so it's nice to have them opening here, and I think visually Dragon will be amazing.”
Stuart Paterson's take on The Jungle Book will brighten up the festive season in a production directed by Nikolai Foster, whose production of James and the Giant peach is currently on a major UK tour.
“Christmas is always difficult,” hill says, “in that there are five pantos on in Glasgow, and we need to do something different. The jungle book is a real chance to do something that has huge multi-cultural influences. It's also nice to go back to doing something by Stuart Paterson.”
While their will be no outright Citz productions in the new year, January will see cutting edge company Filter visit Glasgow with their radical version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
“I suppose I have a vague connection with this,” hill reveals, “in that Sean Holmes the director and I were assistants together at the Orange Tree in Richmond. So I know him, and I know Filter's work, and this is a riotous, joyful mash-up of the play that's got great heart.”
Holmes' production will be followed by Scottish Opera's revival of Hill's production of Macbeth, which continues to highlight Hill's skill at navigating his way through large-scale work, as well as contributing to a continuum of Citizens directors who've dipped their toes into operatic waters in a way that few other directors in Scotland have.
“It just seemed like a nice thing to do,” Hill says of the revival.
For the first time since his arrival at the Gorbals almost two years ago, Hill has opened up the theatre's Circle Studio space for a significant programme of complimentary events to the main programme. Another Dostoyevsky adaptation, Notes From underground, will run alongside Crime and punishment, while a Gaelic language version of Macbeth, Macbheatha, will appear. Ankur Arts and the Citizens Young Company will also present work in the Circle Studio.
“I want the Circle Studio to be about opportunities and development rather than just getting visiting companies in,” says Hill.
Beyond this, Hill is currently mulling over plays for 2014.
“I think next year there will definitely be one, if not two, Glasgow plays,” he says.Then in 2015 it's our birthday, so we'll be doing something big for that. Ideally I'd like to get an ensemble together, so there's still lots to do.”
Tickets for the new Citizens Theatre season are on sale now.
The Citz 2013/14 Season – A Primer
Crime and Punishment – Fydor Dostoyevsky's classic novel about ex student's Raskalnikov's murder of a pawnbroker was originally serialised in twelve parts. Chris Hannan;s new stage version should tapm into the story's epic sensibilities.
True West – Sam Shepard's play about two brothers is a fine vehicle for charismatic actors. Alex Ferns follows in the footsteps of the likes of John Malkovitch, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bruce Willis.
Twelfth Night - Filter Theatre's version of Shakespeare's play was originally commissioned by former Tron Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company director Michael Boyd, and in Lyric, Hammersmith director Sean Holmes' production, condenses things to a ninety minute tour de force.
The Herald, June 11th 2013