Sunday, 8 January 2012

Theatre in 2012 - Looking Forward To A New Season

If the future of theatre in the cash-strapped times we’re living
through is to find imaginative ways of working that won’t bust the
bank, such an attitude needn’t stifle ambition. This should be evident
in 2012 care of the two most anticipated home-grown Shakespeare
productions for some time.

As announced exclusively on these pages several weeks ago, Dominic
Hill’s first season at the Citizens Theatre looks set to raise the bar
high. As well as main-stage productions of Harold Pinter’s mid-period
knee-trembler, Betrayal and a double bill of Beckett miniatures, Hill
lets rip with a production of King Lear. The sheer scale of
Shakespeare’s epic is a gift to Hill, whose facility with big stages is
presumably what got him the gig. Throw in the casting of David Hayman
in the title role, and you have a fully-fledged event.

Hayman, of course, was the mercurial break-out star the 1970s golden
era Citz, courting controversy as a career-defining Hamlet and Lady
Macbeth before embarking on a film and TV career.

Someone who did something similar a generation on was Alan Cumming, who
cut his teeth in camp comedy before showing Hollywood what he was made
of. The last time Cumming appeared on home soil was as an outrageously
irreverent Greek god in Euripides’ The Bacchae, reinvented for the
National Theatre of Scotland’s Edinburgh International Festival
production by David Greig and director John Tiffany as a gold lame-clad
pop spectacle. This time out, Cumming and Tiffany combine for a solo
Macbeth in which Cumming looks set to get his hands very dirty indeed.

Also set to be an event is a look at another piece of Scots
iconography, when Greg Hemphill and Donald McLeary bring The Wicker Man
to the stage with the NTS. For those who don’t know the legend, Robin
Hardy’s 1973 film about a pagan community getting back to nature with
the ultimate sacrifice was all but buried when first released. How the
film’s provocative mix of counter-cultural morality and Scots folk airs
can be captured in An Appointment With The Wicker Man remains to be
seen, although given this reinvention is being described as a ‘skewed
musical comedy’, Hemphill and McLeary might wish to tap into the
fertile alt.folk scene on their doorstep for starters.

While Dominic Hill gets his feet squarely under the table at the Citz
after a decade of making his mark at Dundee Rep and the Traverse,
incoming Traverse director Orla O’Loughlin remains an unknown quantity
in Scotland. All that should change with the arrival at the theatre of
For Once, Tim Price’s highly acclaimed play presented, not by the
Traverse, but by the Shropshire-based Pentabus company, which
O’Loughlin helmed prior to taking up her new post. As a calling card,
Price’s peek at family life in a picture postcard town promises much.

Given the potential – some might say certainty – of an arts funding
crisis in 2012, one might expect younger companies to be tightening
their belts. Then along come Vox Motus to take up what is fast becoming
the most exciting slot on Scotland’s theatre calendar. After Stellar Quines magnificent feminist fantasia, Age of Arousal, in 2011, Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum opens the year
with The Infamous Brothers Davenport. Devised by Candice Edmunds and
Jamie Harrison and with a script by Peter Arnott, Vox Motus’ biggest
show to date opens up the company’s box of tricks by way of a pair of
fantastical siblings played by real life brothers Ryan and Scott
Fletcher.

Stellar Quines, meanwhile, follow the triumph of Age of Arousal with
another Quebecois collaboration. Developed over five years, Ana pulses
its way through one woman’s many lives in a bi-lingual piece written
and performed by a mixed ensemble of Scots and Quebecois artists in a
co-production with the Montreal-based Imago company. All of this is
overseen by Quebecois director Serge Denencourt, who will return to
Scotland later in the year to direct The Guid Sisters.

This Scots translation of a play by another Quebecois writer, Michel
Tremblay, took both countries by storm almost twenty years ago in a
production directed by then boss of the Tron Theatre Michael Boyd, and
which featured Stellar Quines guiding light Muriel Romanes in the cast.
That began Romanes’ great adventure with Quebecois theatre that
continues with Ana, a play which maps out one woman’s many lives in a
genuinely bi-lingual creation. As Romanes made clear in these pages
prior to the play’s Montreal premiere in November, Ana was made on the
company’s terms. In what looks set to be a challenging year, this is
how it should be.

The Herald, January 2nd 2012

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