The Citizens Theatre is based in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland and produces a breadth of work, from professional productions for its main auditorium and studio spaces through to an ongoing commitment to creative learning and engaging with the community.
While the Citizens Theatre building retains some of the original Victorian architectural features, it has undergone additional renovations and expansions over the years. It now includes the 500-seat main auditorium, and two studio theatres. The main auditorium contains the original (1878) proscenium arch stage, which is raked (slopes down towards the auditorium); it has three seating levels: the stalls, the dress circle and the upper circle (or "gods"). The building contains the oldest original (1878) working understage machinery and paint frame in a working theatre in the United Kingdom. The paint frame is still used for scenic painting and its original glass roof remains.
As part of the theatre's ongoing commitment to remain accessible, the Citizens endeavours to keep tickets reasonably priced. In 2008 over 900 children from the Gorbals and surrounding schools participated in a free workshop in their school and attended performances of The Wizard of Oz at the subsidised ticket price of £2.
The Citizens Theatre announced on 18 February 2013 that architects Bennetts Associates has been selected to work on the plans for the most comprehensive redevelopment of the building since it opened as a theatre in 1878. "Citizens Theatre Redevelopment"
The Citizens Theatre and TAG Theatre Company came together as one company in April 2007. Together, the new company offered a substantial programme of work each year, from professional productions on the Citizens stages to participatory work with people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures.
TAG encompassed all of the work for children and young people. Citizens Learning focused on developing links between the Citizens Theatre and people of all ages living and working in Glasgow and the surrounding area, by encouraging them to engage with the theatre's work and participate in drama.
From September 2012, all the work for children and young people previously produced under the name of TAG will now be produced under the name of Citizens Theatre.
Dominic Hill was Artistic Director at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh for the last 3 years. Prior to the Traverse, he was Co-Artistic Director (with James Brining) at Dundee Rep Theatre, a post he held for 5 years from 2003. Before joining Dundee Rep, Dominic worked as a Freelance Director, Associate Director at Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Assistant Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Assistant Director at Perth Theatre.
He has received many accolades for his critically acclaimed productions, including numerous CATS Awards (Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland) for amongst others, The Dark Things (Best Production 2009/10); Peer Gynt (Best Director & Best Production 2007/08); and Scenes from an Execution (Best Director 2003/04).
Hill took up post in October 2011.
Jeremy Raison was the Artistic Director of the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow from 2003 until August 2010. After seven successful years Raison directed his final production A Clockwork Orange, based on Anthony Burgess's novel in October 2010.
Previous Citizens productions directed by Raison include Thérèse Raquin, Baby Doll, A Handful of Dust, Desire Under the Elms and Ghosts as well as Scottish classics The Bevellers, No Mean City and his own adaptation of The Sound of My Voice based on the novel by Ron Butlin.
Raison's work for children and families in the Citizens includes The Borrowers, Charlotte's Web, James and the Giant Peach, Peter Pan, Cinderella and Wee Fairy Tales.
Guy Hollands became Artistic Director of the Citizens Theatre in 2006, having previously been Artistic Director of TAG since 2004. After four successful years, Hollands is expected to assume a new role leading the Citizens Theatre company's creative learning portfolio in early 2011. Previous Citizens productions directed by Hollands include "Hamlet", "Waiting For Godot", "Othello", "Beauty and the Beast", "The Caretaker", "Nightingale and Chase", "The Fever" and "Ice Cream Dreams", a ground breaking work which used community actors, people in recovery and professional actors to explore Glasgow's history during the "Glasgow Ice Cream Wars".
Hollands' work for children and families for TAG and on tour includes Yellow Moon, " A Taste of Honey", "King Lear", "Knives in Hens", Liar, Museum of Dreams, "Meep and Moop" and The Monster in the Hall.
The Citizens Theatre is the west of Scotland's major producing theatre. Approximately 30 members of staff work backstage during the run up to a production in addition to which up to 12 actors for a main auditorium production and a director may be rehearsing in one of the theatre's three rehearsal rooms. The production team includes stage management, lighting, sound, workshop, wardrobe and technicians. Costumes, sets, lighting and sound are prepared by the Citizens' backstage crew and the company produces several shows each year in the main auditorium, studio spaces and for touring.
The Citizens Theatre is the only theatre in Scotland still to have the original Victorian machinery under the stage and the original Victorian paint frame is still used today to paint the backcloths for shows. Welding, carpentry, sewing, painting and paper-mache may be used to create sets for productions.
Recently, Christmas shows have been fairy tales adapted by Alan McHugh and presented in highly theatrical productions offered as an alternative to pantomime.
Guy Hollands founded the Citizens Community Company in 1999, with the first Community Performance Project Driving Out The Devil, short plays by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Guy Hollands. Since this first evening, the company has presented 20 different productions, performing over 90 shows, and growing into a more or less permanent ensemble of around 30 people. The Community Company performs an annual A Wicked Christmas, showcasing the group's writing and acting talents, and taking an irreverent look at all things festive.
The Citizens YOUNG Co. launched in 2005. The company is drawn from young people in Glasgow and across the West of Scotland. No prior experience is required. Participants work on professional productions performed as part of the Citizens Theatre Season. YOUNG Co. members may study writing, performing, design or stage management and have the opportunity to work with theatre professionals.
The Citizens Theatre runs a programme of weekend drama classes for children and young people which sees over 250 participants attending the theatre most weekends. The classes are run by qualified drama tutors and are available for ages 4–15. At the end of each 10-week term, participants perform in one of the theatre's studio spaces for family and friends.
[email protected] (for ages 4–12) focuses on confidence building, social skills, encouraging children to use their creativity, and fun. Participants learn an array of drama games which build upon these skills and devise work to perform for family and friends.
In 2008 [email protected] participants performed as "munchkins" alongside professional actors in the Citizens Christmas show The Wizard of Oz. The production will be directed by Artistic Director Guy Hollands and designed by Jason Southgate.
[email protected] (ages 13–15) introduces participants to voice, movement and stagecraft; and encourages participants to devise work for performance. [email protected] have the opportunity to move on to the Citizens YOUNG Co. at age 16, and thus to work on main stage and studio shows within the theatre.
"The Citizens Theatre is probably more important as part of Britain's heritage than perhaps many imagined. It is Britain's oldest fully functioning professional theatre which retains the greater part of the historic auditorium and stage... This leaves the Grand Theatre, Leeds which opened six weeks before the Citizens (nee Her Majesty's) but which had all its stage machinery destroyed 30 years ago. The Citizens is thus a British national treasure."
- Iain MacIntosh, Theatre Specialist, November 2007.
The theatre was built in 1878 (as The Royal Princess's) and designed by Campbell Douglas, a friend and contemporary of Alexander Thomson (Alexander "Greek" Thomson). It was one of 18 theatres built in Glasgow between 1862 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 (during the same period seven were built in Edinburgh). There were four theatres built in this area: The Palace (demolished), The Princess's Royal (the Citizens), the Coliseum (demolished), and the New Bedford Theatre, adapted as the Carling Academy Glasgow. The remaining theatres built in this period still operating in Glasgow are the Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, the King's Theatre, Glasgow, the Theatre Royal, Glasgow and the Citizens Theatre.
When it opened, the theatre seated 1,200, and presented melodrama, variety and pantomimes. By the 1880s the Royal Princess and its neighbour the Palace Theatre were surrounded by the acknowledged worst slum in Europe, called the Gorbals. In the 1930s the Palace was converted to a cinema. The advent of television further drew off audiences in the 1950s and 1960s. By the time the slums of the Gorbals had been cleared, the Palace had become a bingo hall. Together with the Royal Princess's Theatre and the swimming baths and tenement opposite, these were the only buildings remaining from the Victorian age.
The Citizens Theatre Company was formed in 1943 by a group of theatre-minded men led by Tom Honeyman and James Bridie, the latter Scotland's then best-known playwright. The name of the new company was taken from the manifesto drawn up in 1909 by Alfred Wareing of the newly formed Scottish Playgoers Co Ltd for their repertory company, which was to provide live theatre for the citizens of Glasgow, staging new Scottish and international drama, opening at the Royalty Theatre.
The 1909 manifesto of the Glasgow Repertory Theatre expressed these tenets: "The Repertory Theatre is Glasgow's own theatre. It is a citizens' theatre in the fullest sense of the term. Established to make Glasgow independent from London for its dramatic supplies, it produces plays which the Glasgow playgoers would otherwise not have the opportunity of seeing."
This manifesto inspired the vision of James Bridie as he led the efforts to found the repertory group, the Citizens Company, in 1943. Originally based at the Athenaeum theatre (now the Old Athenaeum) in Buchanan Street, Bridie's Citizens Company relocated to the Victorian-era Royal Princess's Theatre in the Gorbals in 1945 at the invitation of Harry McKelvie, "The Pantomime King". Bridie renamed it the Citizens Theatre and the Citizens Company opened on 11 September 1945.
James Bridie, the pseudonym used by Osborne Henry Mavor, was a Scottish playwright, screenwriter and surgeon. He is now considered to be a founding father of modern Scottish theatre, following his involvement with the founding of both the Citizens Theatre and Scotland's first college of drama, now known as the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
He studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, then he served as a medical officer during World War I in France and Mesopotamia. With the success of his comedies in London, Bridie became a full-time writer in 1938. The Bridie Library in Glasgow University Union, an organisation of which he was President, is named after him.
During the long period from the 1970s to the 1990s, the Citizens was associated with innovative play selections and stagings by Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald. The three were responsible for the Citizens Theatre being recognised as one of the leading theatres in Britain. Havergal and Prowse came up to Glasgow from the Watford Palace Theatre in 1969. By 1971 Robert David MacDonald completed the triumvirate. Their internationalist approach was some distance from the original vision of a national theatre but did meet the access aspirations of the 1909 manifesto, not least in a commitment to low pricing. Havergal, Prowse and MacDonald remained at the Citizens for over 30 years.
Giles Havergal was Director of Watford Palace Theatre (1965–69) and director of the Citizens Theatre from 1969 to 2003. He directed over 80 plays in Glasgow including works by Shakespeare and Bertolt Brecht. He has also directed over 20 children and family Christmas productions.
Havergal's production of Travels with My Aunt adapted from the Graham Greene novel of the same title, was first presented in Glasgow in 1989 and then played in the West End where it won an Laurence Olivier Award in 1993, and off Broadway in 1995.
His production of his and Robert David Macdonald's adaptation of Death in Venice by Thomas Mann was first presented in Glasgow in 2000. It played at the Manhattan Ensemble Theatre, New York in 2002.
Philip Prowse was trained at the Slade School of Art and since 1970 was a Co-Director of the Citizens Company with Havergal and Robert David MacDonald. In 2003 both Havergal and MacDonald stepped down from their posts as directors of the company. Prowse however, continued his role as artistic collaborator with newly appointed Artistic Director, Jeremy Raison, until 2004.
He directed and designed over 70 plays with the Citizens Theatre and has worked throughout the world designing and directing for opera, ballet and drama.
Robert David MacDonald became a Co-Director of the Citizens Company with Havergal and Philip Prowse in 1971 and retired in June 2003. In that time he wrote and adapted fourteen plays for the Company: Dracula (1972); Camille (1974); De Sade Show (1975); Chinchilla (1977); No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1978); Summit Conference (1978); A Waste of Time (1980); Don Juan (1980); Webster (1983); Anna Karenina (1987); Conundrum (1992); In Quest of Conscience (1994); Persons Unknown (1995); The Ice House (1998), Britannicus (2002), Cheri (2003) and Snow White (2003).
As an actor with the Citizens Company he played leading roles in more than twenty productions. He translated over sixty plays and operas from ten languages and as a director with the company he directed fifty productions including ten British or world premieres.
Robert David MacDonald died in 2004.
During the 1970s the Citizens attracted much controversy with its productions and advertising.
In December 1970 city councillors called for an end to the GB£12,000 annual grant the Glasgow Corporation gave to the theatre after it was announced that anyone presenting a trade union card on 8 December would be granted free entry to the theatre. The Evening Times reported "The free tickets were suggested as a gesture of the actors' solidarity with the trade unionists' strike protest against the Industrial Relations Bill" (Evening Times, 7 December 1970). This was the first of many altercations between the theatre and the city council throughout the decade.
Earlier in the autumn season of 1970 a controversial new staging of Hamlet caused outrage in the press for the nudity and alternative acting styles of the Company. The Scotsman headline reported "Hamlet Depicted As A Gibbering Oaf" (7 September 1970) but the public flocked to the production and the theatre discovered an all new audience. Cordelia Oliver, a longterm supporter of the Citizens in her reviews, noted in The Guardian "Schoolchildren en masse rarely sit "Hamlet" out in silence, nor are they often roused to cheering as they did at the end last Friday. If Havergal has set his sights on a predominately youthful audience for the Citizens this reception suggest he may not be so wide off the mark" (10 September 1970).
In 1975 a flier advertising the spring season was condemned by Labour councillor Laurence McGarry for its depiction of "Shakespeare, in drag with large cleavage, painted lips, corsets, suspenders and hand on hip". The councilor felt the theatre was guilty of "playing to an intellectual minority rather than the great mass of the public".
In 1977 the Lord Provost Mr Peter McCann called for the sacking of theatre bosses after a performance of Dracula which featured nude scenes he described as "kinky claptrap appealing only to mentally ill weirdos" (Sunday Express, 13 March 1977). The Provost's calls were not supported by his councillors and his attempts to gain city council control of programming at the Citizens failed. The entire run of Dracula at the Citizens was a sell-out.
Throughout its existence the Citizens has been both criticised and acclaimed for its insistence on producing works which are not specifically populist. While many have claimed that a citizens' theatre should deliberately appeal to a mass audience the theatre has a history of experimental works which have proved immensely popular despite rather than because of their subject matter.
Over time, many patrons and staff members have reported sightings of ghosts. One long term staff member, trapped in the upper circle during a blackout, was led to safety by the distinctive outline of a monk. Customers seated in the dress circle during shows in the 1970s often inquired about the costumed "actor" who sat boldly on the balcony and stared back at them. Current staff members have caught glimpses of a "white lady" dressed in Victorian costume and flitting (moving) from the dress circle bar towards the circle studio dressing rooms. Backstage dressing room 7 is thought to be haunted by some of its past inhabitants and the upper circle has occasional visits from a strawberry seller girl, one of the most sighted of the Citizens ghosts.
Some much-loved members of the Citizens foyer are the theatre's Victorian era statues.
Inside the Citizens foyer are four elephant statues and four Nautch girls' statues, all in the baroque Anglo-Indian style, a reminder of the re-design of the Palace Theatre in 1907 by Bertie Crewe.
An order was made with little warning for the destruction of the Palace in 1977. Staff of the Citizens arranged a stay of execution to rescue the best of the Victorian fittings, including the statues. The remaining two elephants and two more Nautch girls (or goddesses) can now be found in the Theatre Museum in London.
The foyer's repainting in bright pink in the summer of 2004 included building artwork and the entrance to the main auditorium is now guarded by four pink elephant statues.
The foyer also features statues representing William Shakespeare, Robert Burns and four muses, music, dance, tragedy and comedy, which were originally placed on the roof of the Royal Princess's Theatre and are the work of Victorian Glasgow sculptor John Mossman. The four muses are Music (Euterpe), Comedy (Thalia), Tragedy (Melpomene) and Dance (Terpsichore).
The six pillars on which they sat were once the front of the Union Bank on Ingram Street. The statues were brought down from the building after nearly a hundred years on 12 July 1977 in order to protect them from demolition work taking place at the nearby Gorbals Cross.
At the time the Glasgow Herald reported the statues weighed around three tons each and newspaper articles from the period reveal that the allegorically named "music" muse also had the nickname Highland Mary. Smaller replicas of the four muses statues can be seen in gold above the main stage itself.
Amongst those who have trodden the boards at the Citizens Theatre or worked backstage are Pierce Brosnan, Ciarán Hinds, Rupert Everett, Helen Baxendale, Tim Roth, Celia Imrie, Mark Rylance, Laurance Rudic, Lorcan Cranitch, Tim Curry, Sean Bean, Una McLean, Ann Mitchell, Alan Rickman, Glenda Jackson, Greg Hicks, David Hayman, Iain Robertson, Henry Ian Cusick, Robbie Coltrane, Stanley Baxter, Molly Urquhart, Allison McKenzie, Duncan Macrae, Fulton Mackay, Jonathan Watson, Gary Oldman, Leonard Maguire, Fidelis Morgan, Moira Shearer, Julie Le Grand, Andrew Keir, Sophie Ward, Roberta Taylor, Lewis Collins, Karen Fishwick and Trisha Biggar (who designed the costumes for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith), was for very many years, wardrobe mistress. Renowned designer/directors, as well as Philip Prowse, include Kenny Miller, Stewart Laing, Nigel Lowery, Tom Cairns, Antony McDonald and designers Sue Blane, Michael Levine, Maria Bjornson, David Fielding etc. Rae Smith worked as a scene painter.Clara Geoghegan danced on the original The Royal Princess's Theatre stage
A number of high-profile actors have worked for TAG Theatre Company, including Robert Carlyle, Bill Paterson, Alex Norton, Alan Cumming, Blythe Duff, Forbes Masson, Caroline Paterson, Billy Boyd, and Jonathan Watson.