In the world of theatre where people are transported to other worlds; where they are allowed to sample lives long gone or imagine the future just by sitting in seat in a dark auditorium, it may all seem like some kind of magic trick. The reality, apart from the writing, directing, acting, designing, is a whole load of forward planning. Even now when we in Scotland (that sounds creepily familiar, maybe it should be scratched!) feel that winter is still blowing its chill breath, pantomimes are being announced for next year.
With that in mind, September actually feels quite close so it’s time to anticipate what will be on offer at the Lyceum in what will be Artistic Director David Greig’s second year in office. During that time, shows created at The Lyceum have visited Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow, Newcastle with The Suppliant Women still touring and scheduled to visit Young Vic in London this November and some work has been seen at 4 major festivals – Belfast International Festival, Edinburgh International Science Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and Celtic Connections.
Greig sets out a response to, in his words, ‘a world in turmoil ‘. The Lyceum will stage a series of ten bold plays, that include four Scottish and three world premières, and comprise a mix of undiscovered classics, new plays, and fresh adaptations, each telling a truly theatrical story which reflects directly on the great issues of the day.
In What Shadows, writer Chris Hannan examines the life of Enoch Powell, the progenitor of Brexit. In forgotten classic Cockpit, British soldiers guarding refugees attempt to forge a new Europe out of the ashes of war. In Wind Resistance, Karine Polwart brings together reflections on Alex Ferguson, geese and peat bogs to find a socialism of nature, and in Rhinoceros, Zinnie Harris and Murat Daltaban find fresh resonance in Ionesco’s fable about groupthink and the individual. The production of The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, postponed from this year, has only gained in relevance as Peter Handke’s exploration of the fragility of everyday life.
Gender politics feature in three of the season’s plays. In Tony Cownie’s rare revival of the restoration comedy The Belle’s Stratagem by Hannah Cowley, the ploys and tricks of men and women are exposed and teased. In Jemima Levick and Fleur Darkin’s adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, a woman looks back at her adolescent love affair with an older man in colonial Indochina, and in August Strindberg’s The Creditors a couple tear each other apart in a forensic tragicomedy of marriage.
October sees the World Première of Love Song to Lavender Menace written by James Ley. The play is an homage to the founders of Lavender Menace, a radical LGBT and feminist bookshop that opened in 1982 on Edinburgh’s Forth Street, and explores LGBT history, activism, liberation and culture.
And of course there’s the Lyceum’s renowned Christmas show. This year, a new version of The Arabian Nights by Suhayla El-Bushra, finds the heroine Scheherezade saving the cosmopolitan marketplace of Old Baghdad from the Sultan who would destroy it, with the only weapon she has to hand: stories. This new play with songs will be directed by Joe Douglas, who has brought The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, Death of A Salesman and George’s Marvellous Medicine to the Dundee Rep stage.
June sees The Lyceum’s third Variety Night featuring spoken word artists Kathleen Jamie and Caroline Bird, ballet dancer Jack Webb, theatre-maker Kieran Hurley, and musical performers Maud The Moth, The Miss’s, and Mairi Campbell. New dates are scheduled throughout the 2017/18 season.
For the first time, this season has more productions written and directed by women than men, including two lost classics by women having their major UK revivals and one that will see artists coming from the Middle East, China, Turkey and Europe.
In these uncertain times in which we are living, David Greig himself says, “…If there was ever a time for a theatre to take risks, this moment is it.”