Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
A hundred years ago, the Citizens Theatre was the Royal Princess’s, a variety dive catering to what was left of the masses in the fallout of the First World War. As the Citz’s current incumbents prepare to move out of their Gorbals home for two years pending a multi-million pound upgrade, it’s only fitting that the final show on the main stage as it stands looks back to a time when the building’s grandeur perhaps wasn’t so faded.
With almost fifty performers onstage drawn from the Citz’s assorted community companies, initially this looks set to be a braw night of fun and frolics, especially as MC’d by tartan-trewed turn and the theatre’s then director-manager, Rich Waldon, brought to life with grotesque gusto by Alan McHugh. As soon as one Dorothy Donaldson breaks ranks and the motley crew onstage realise they are the ghosts of Citizens Theatres past, things take a different turn in Guy Hollands and Neil Packham’s expansive production of Peter Arnott’s meticulously researched script.
Drawn from the real life history of Dorothy and her dad Ronald, the effect is a ribald but increasingly angry collage of high-end agit-prop that moves from Pirandellian archness by way of Oh What A Lovely War. Arnott, Hollands and Packham are really going for broke here, both in the show’s unflinching anti-war sentiments and in the monumental stage pictures created by the ensemble under the eye of movement director Jen Edgar.
All this combines to create what is possibly the closest and most powerful near neighbour to a Joan Littlewood style epic by, for and about the people that you’re likely to see on a stage for a good couple of years. Possibly, in fact, until the Citz reopens for a brand new era. The theatre’s ghosts may linger still.
The Herald, May 25th 2018