Behind the scenes at the Citizens‘ Theatre, count the stiffs in Casualty, Madonna on the Beeb anda
round-up of this fortnight’s radio.
LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 83 WEEK TWO 84
Putting on the Citz
Mark Fisher gets a sneak-preview of a 90-minute documentary about Glasgow’s Citizens‘ Theatre in which he makes a cameo appearance guzzling lager.
In this post-Nicholas (Traig era. it has become all but impossible to take the claims of a tortured theatrical seriously. ‘Darling. we‘re having a hard day.‘ complains Philip l’rowse ever so caringly to a hapless photographer at one point in Diane Tammes' documentary on the Citizens Theatre and. well. yes loveys. we’ve all been there with him. haven‘t we‘.’
Tobe fair. the directorial triumviraie which has ruled the roost at the (iorbals theatre for over two decades has never gone out of its way to draw attention to itself. '1 he three men. (iiles Havergal. Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald. have always got on with the job of creating world-class theatre and have let the productions speak for themselves. Consequently. this behind the scenes documentary gives a rare inside view into the workings of the theatre.
Filmed over a two-year period for the Without Walls series. the programme take us into every corner of the Citizens' from drawing board to first night party. It follows the company from its production of Noel Coward‘s The Vortex at the beginning of 1988. through to this year's Mayfest production of B recht‘s Mother ( 'uurage. rounding off with a strangely uncredited Travels
With My Aunt. [in route we are taken through meetings with accountants. production staff. casting agents. directors. actors. funding bodies as well as footage of the audience and the shows themselves.
1_’nusually for television. the on-stage sequences capture the atmosphere remarkably w ell. Theatre is notoriously flat and hammy when transferred directly to screen. but here. thanks in part to judicious editing and no doubt the (‘itizens’ own subtle use oflighting. the productions come across with exotic charisma. Whether it's the high-pitched ensemble French counting from xi Tale Of Two Cities. Glenda Jackson‘s uniquely stylised earthy poetry from Mother ( ‘ourage or the desolate death throes of (ireg Hicks in linrim Four. the documentary captures the theatre at its most enigmatic.
What the programme lacks is a proper overview of the (‘itizens‘ output in its 21 years under Giles Havergal. Some use is made of interesting archive material. but it is not dwelt on and for a thorough account of the company's artistic track record and philosophy you really need a copy of Michael Coveney's The (fit: (Nick New Books
£14.95 h/b). Where the programme succeeds is in its portrayal of the day-to-day running of a theatre and in its depiction of Giles Havergal as a man equally concerned with good housekeeping as good theatre.
Subtitles breeze past to remind us that the Citizens' has never gone into deficit. while on screen. Havergal argues with his fellow directors about the importance of keeping within budget. It is an attitude compatible with the company‘s socialist roots and reﬂected in the equal wages given to all performers. the free admission for unemployed people and the fact that every last employee is credited on the programmes. Havergal accepts that his reponsibility is to the people who pay for him to be there just as much as it is to his undoubted creative talents.
And if the prospect of a fly on the wall account of life in a theatre isn’t quite enough to keep you up past midnight. there‘s the added attraction of a glimpse ofyours truly enjoying the Citz' generous interval hospitality. All in a day‘s work. guv. all in a day‘s work.
Without Walls: The Citizen '5' Theatre, Wed 19 Dee (Gimme/4), 11pm.
CASUAL DEATHS . f}. t .7
‘He‘s going into VF‘ has suddenly become a catchphrase even more cultish than ‘This must be where pies ‘ go to dle' or ‘Cowabunga’, as the great 3 / Casualty stilt-spotting game grips the nahon.
The rules are simple. Tune into the BBC's gory hospital drama on a Friday night, scan the cast 01 potential victims 1 - .j\ and place yourbets please, torwhich l ' lucky person will be wheeled oil to Holby City mortuary as the end credits l roll. There's usually several to choose |
from, with possibles ranging trom teenage suicides, through football 1 hooligans, or, it it‘s a particularly 1
bodies than the Somme.
visceral episode, you might be lucky enough to get a huge RTA, and more
RTA (Road Traffic Accident) is the harbinger at many a VF (medical students please write in and explain) and an excuse tor all the cast including gormless porter Jimmy, dipso Charlie and Oscar-winning Megan to gather round and batter the poor victim with ﬂat irons until his lite support system shows a line as ﬂat as a Gazza brain-scan.
This cheery and compulsive stutt appeals to the smug bastard in all at us and its own VF (viewing tigures) regularly top 9 million. It must be something about the Brits though, because. however cheaply the 88C try to flag it abroad, no othercountry will touch it. Funny that. (Tom Lappin)
The List 7 - 20 December 1990 81