Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Performance Geography of Glasgow: The Southside

Although The Citizens Theatre has been, in various incarnations, on the same site since 1878 (becoming the Citizens in 1945 with the arrival of James Bridie’s company), The Southside is not over-burden with theatrical venues. Across from the Citizens is the O2 Academy, predominantly a club and gig venue but also the home of Club Noir, the biggest burlesque club in the world (Guinness Book of Records, 2011). Further south is Tramway, a space rediscovered by Peter Brook for his Mahabharata  in 1988 and subsequently a major venue during 1990’s City of Culture festival: Scottish Ballet recently added an extension to Tramway, making it their base. At the very edge of the city, Eastwood Park Theatre hosts medium scale touring shows.

Each of these venues has a distinctive identity. Following from the iconic regime of the ‘triumvirate’ of Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald (1969 - 2003), The Citizens became internationally recognised for its daring interpretations of Classic plays, including translations of writers often neglected in the UK. MacDonald, a playwright himself, is more celebrated for his translations, including those of Goldoni and Brecht.

Current artistic director Dominic Hill has continued this theme, staging versions of King Lear, Hamlet and Pinter’s Betrayal, as well as commissioning an adaptation of Crime and Punishment  from Chris Hannan. Less interested in new writing, despite Hill’s previous role at Edinburgh’s Traverse, The Citizens maintains a strong connection to its local community, through cheap ticket opportunities.

Tramway is known internationally for presenting experimental theatre from around the world. Apart from its long association with Peter Brook - a regular visitor in the 1990s, and returning in 2010 with 11 and 12, Tramway invited companies like Victoria and Les Ballets C de La B from Belgium, Robert Lepage from Quebec and Forced Entertainment from Sheffield to take advantage of their flexible main space. 

Thanks to the wall built by Brook for The Mahabharata, Tramway has a unique atmosphere. Rescued from demolition and also housing a huge main gallery for visual art, it still bears the traces of its previous use as a garage for Glasgow’s trams and the Museum for Transport, linking it to the city’s industrial past. It has a reputation for adventurous programming, but has recently began to support local, emerging artists, primarily through its Rip It Up Seasons.

Eastwood Park, meanwhile, is often the forgotten theatre in surveys
of Glasgow. Positioned at the point where Glasgow meets East Renfrewshire - an independent county - it has featured touring productions from Rapture (based in The Briggait), Random Accomplice (The CCA) as well as The Reduced Shakespeare Company. 

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