BY ROYAL APPOINTMENT
Mark Thomson is going out with a bang with his ﬁ nal Lyceum season. David Pollock talks to the artistic director about Homer, Godot and Victoriana
T hirteen years, says Mark Thomson, is a long time to be in charge of a big theatre like the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, which he leaves next summer. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the theatre company, his i nal season starts with a new version of Waiting for Godot starring Brian Cox and Bill Paterson, and directed by Thomson. Now he’s allowing himself time to rel ect.
‘I’m very privileged to have worked with the Lyceum,’ he says, having been appointed from his old job at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh as replacement for Kenny Ireland. ‘It’s a special place and company. You could say the work of an artistic director is like a dating agency, joining up creative people with other creative people and then bringing together work and audiences.’ He told himself that if he ever programmed a predictable season then he’d failed, and so the work of theatre makers like Matthew Lenton, Vox Motus and Amanda Gaughan sat alongside ‘the Millers and Shakespeares’.
There’s a way to go before he’s done with it all, though, and some of the most exciting Scottish theatre productions of the next 12 months will happen under the Lyceum’s proscenium arch. ‘I have four actors in the room right now, all of whom have had a keen relationship with that stage for more than 40 years,’ says Thomson, deep in Godot rehearsals. ‘Having Brian Cox and Bill Paterson as the central duet means we have two of our i nest actors working on Beckett’s great play for my audience and that’s a thrill. It feels like a brilliant 50th anniversary present for the Lyceum, but it’s not nostalgia. They are only here because they want to create a unique Godot for Edinburgh and Scotland.’ His excitement is tangible as he lists some more highlights. ‘Our co-production with the Lyric Hammersmith has two of the UK’s most exciting theatre artists in Lyndsey Turner and Laura Wade adapting Tipping the Velvet, which is a wonderful Victorian story of sexual and political discovery, very human and theatrical in our Victorian theatre. John Dove has made
several excellent Millers and his production of The Crucible is a i tting i nale in that series. Liz Lochhead has been writing for the Lyceum since her Dracula in the 80s and both she and Tony Cownie have a long history of creating Scottish Molières, so Thon Man Molière about the man himself promises to be vibrant, funny and revealing.’ Thomson’s last production as artistic director of the Lyceum will be Homer’s The Iliad. ‘It’s always fascinated me how certain types of work or writers suddenly become very present,’ he says. ‘I commissioned Chris Hannan to adapt The Iliad when it hadn’t been done for many years, and suddenly within the last two years, The Globe, Liverpool and Derby are all creating Homer adaptations. I think that means we realise something has gone wrong in our thinking, and that going back to the Greeks – who talk of the nature of basic human drives and being alongside social and political thinking – might offer perspective for our times.’ It sounds like some way to go out.
30 THE LIST 3 Sep–5 Nov 2015