Playwrights in agreement shock
MONDAY night's discussion at the National Library of Scotland about the Traverse Theatre kicked off at that point in 1985 when, as playwright Peter Arnott put it, there was a realisation "you could set the battle of Stalingrad on a stage the size of this [very small] one".
Chris Hannan, on the stage, and Jo Clifford, in the audience, had been in similarly expansive mood that year. The breadth of their vision was matched by the quality of the actors they attracted. Among the cast of Arnott's White Rose, Clifford's Losing Venice and Hannan's Elizabeth Gordon Quinn (pictured in the National Theatre of Scotland revival, pic: Manuel Harlan) had been Tilda Swinton and Ken Stott. It was after seeing Swinton in White Rose that Derek Jarman cast her in Caravaggio, said Arnott.
The success of this season and other highlights from a company approaching its 50th birthday was because of conditions made possible by artistic directors, argued Traverse biographer Joyce McMillan. Whether it was by programming startling work from abroad or pursuing an all-Scottish commissioning policy, the Traverse's various directors had set the mood for what took place on stage.
The panel, which also included playwright David Harrower and artistic director Dominic Hill, was in uncommon agreement that the situation for writers today had immeasurably improved from a time when, as Arnott put it, the economy wasn't big enough to cope with more than one generation of playwrights at a time. Now Scottish theatre can afford to have a memory although, as Harrower suggested, it still does not feel like Scotland has a repertoire unlike, say, Ireland. "Maybe we're mongrel playwrights," he said. "And I'm not sure which is better."
Amid the positive air and praise for what Hannan called the "godsend" of A Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor was a note of caution about professional script support. "I think there's far too much development," said Hannan. "There have been people between the Playwrights Studio and all that for three or four years. That would be OK in Hollywood, but not in theatre." If you have been caught in script-development hell, join the debate here.
Seasonal competition time
THEATRES are already gearing up for their Christmas seasons. His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen has just announced that Elaine C Smith (pictured) will return for a second year to star as the evil Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty, alongside Alan McHugh and Jordan Young. Nine months ahead of opening night, HMT has already sold over 5000 tickets. Back on Smith's old Glasgow stomping ground, all eyes are set on the battle for audiences as the mainstream pantos at the King's and Pavilion compete with the SECC which has scheduled a month-long run of a 3D Aladdin starring John Barrowman. The King's had sold 15,000 tickets by Hogmanay, so expect a fierce competition.
Citz behind bars
IMPRISONMENT is no obstacle to getting to see the Citizens Theatre. As part of the Inspiring Change project, the Gorbals theatre is helping inmates of HMP Greenock and HMP Barlinnie to put on their own productions. This month and next, Elly Goodman and Kate Black, as well as singer/songwriter Carol Laula, designer Rachel Mimiec, writer Lynda Radley and costume designer Lynda Gray, are working with 15 prisoners in Greenock on A Woman's Place which will explore the role of women in society. In the autumn, 50 prisoners in Barlinnie will take part in the music-based Platform 2:10. It is the first time in Scotland that a project of this nature will be assessed to monitor the effects of the arts on re-offending rates.
MARY McCluskey is leading Scottish Youth Theatre into its first Easter show, a version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, staged in Glasgow. McCluskey's new Theatre Jezebel company will be returning to the Tron with Doubt in June.
Dundee on its Todd
THE summer season at Dundee Rep includes classic Broadway musical Sweeney Todd, directed by James Brining, and children's show The Elves and the Shoemakers, directed by Jemima Levick.
Every One, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Mar 19–Apr 10
Maria of My Soul, Clyde Unity Theatre, on tour, Mar 19–26
Laurel and Hardy, Mull Theatre, on tour, Mar 20–May 1
One Night Stand, Nick Underwood, Tron, Glasgow, Mar 23–27
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
Hamlet, Rapture, on tour, Feb 4-Mar 13
The Government Inspector, Tron/Communicado, on tour, Feb 11-Mar 13
The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Feb 19–Mar 13
9 March 2010 The Guardian
My Name is Rachel Corrie
By Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner. A Citizens Theatre review.
8 March 2010 The Guardian
By Peter Shaffer. A Dundee Rep review
3 March 2010 Northings
Pobby and Dingan
Adapted by Rob Evans. A Catherine Wheels review.
23 February 2010 The Guardian
The Beauty Queen of Leenane
By Martin McDonagh. A Royal Lyceum Theatre review.
18 February 2010 Northings
Clutter Keeps Company
By Davey Anderson. A Birds of Paradise review.
18 February 2010 The Guardian
The Government Inspector
By Nikolai Gogol. A Tron Theatre/Communicado review.
10 February 2010 The Guardian
By Douglas Maxwell. A Random Accomplice review.