Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh enters ‘hibernation’ period

Having closed its doors on March 16th this year, The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh is now postponing all shows until at least Spring 2021. Making it clear they would not announce their season until they secure information for when audiences will able to safely attend. Suffering a loss of £700,000 in income due to the pandemic, with evident measures of social distancing likely to last until the year’s end, the theatre is facing the dire choice of entering redundancy discussions with unions, losing members of its theatrical family, or complete closure before Winter.

An icon of the city, The Lyceum is a lifeblood for the arts community and has been since 1883. Home for much of the Edinburgh International Theatre’s productions, with massive support from locals, it has endeavoured to sustain itself through austerity – where a vast number of its increasing income is earned through ticket sales. As a grant-aided company, this, unfortunately, means that as steady income halts there is no longer an inbound revenue. Sustaining itself thus far thanks to generous donations from the public, and continuing support from Creative Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council, the theatre’s board have made financial projections that, without intervention, the Lyceum will empty its funds in November this year.

Speaking directly on the issue, the Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig said:

To protect The Lyceum from closure we have to act now to preserve the theatre company and our ability to create theatre in Edinburgh in the future. Sadly, to do this we have to reduce the wage costs which make up the vast majority of our expenditure…

…This will mean losing friends from our theatre family – people I am in awe of, who make the magic happen on our stage and who are much loved and valued. Very sadly, with our principal income stream removed during this epidemic, the stark choice we face is between a redundancy process now to reduce our expenditure, or total closure before Christmas – an alternative that would leave the Lyceum shut long after the pandemic has passed.

Entering this period of hibernation will allow us to conserve the limited resource we have through the dark winter of Covid-19 and emerge, hopefully in the spring, with enough capacity to make theatre again with the brilliant theatre-makers of Scotland for the people of Edinburgh”.

Previous high-selling shows, such as the theatre’s annual Christmas production will be pushed back until 2021. Ticket holders for rescheduled shows will be contacted in due course. Meanwhile, it has been made clear that there will be continuing support for the city, as the Lyceum will maintain to operate community engagement and creative learnings.

With glimmers of hope, and re-schedules occurring, the theatre is working with producers and artists for a re-opening, but as of right now the focus is to conserve the minimal resources remaining. Our thoughts go to staff, colleagues, producers and cherished friends working towards a dawning era of post-COVID 19 theatre for the people of Scotland.

Further information, donations and contact details can be found on The Royal Lyceum’s website:https://lyceum.org.uk/

Photo credit & copyright – Royal Lyceum Theatre

Covid-19 – Theatre/Events responses & information

As of March 16th, the Scottish Government advises a policy to protect the capacity of our public services, advising that organisers should cancel or postpone all mass events of 500 people or more – indoors or outdoors.

Below is an ongoing list of Scottish Theatre & events venues which have provided their stance on the matter, with many revaluating constantly in accordance with government advice and the safety of the public and their staff paramount. This page will seek to guide, inform and update readers to which venues remain open, have cancelled events (which should be checked on their respective websites, or have gone dark (closed).

If you have purchased tickets for events or production in the coming weeks/months, we recommend you get in contact with the representatives of the theatres. Box office numbers and website listings for an email address and contact details are below. Please bear in mind the difficult time for these companies, with staff working their hardest to support audiences, talent and each other. The person at the other end of your enquiry is potentially about to have no job for the foreseeable future.

Edinburgh & Lothians:

Assembly RoxyBox Office: 0131 623 3030 – www.assemblyfestival.com
Current Status: Dark

Bedlam Theatre https://bedlamtheatre.co.uk
Current Status: Events cancelled

The BruntonBox Office: 0131 665 2240 – www.thebrunton.co.uk
Current Status: Dark

Church Hill Theatre www.assemblyroomsedinburgh.co.uk
Current Status: Shows postponed

The Festival Theatre & The King’s Theatre Box Office 0131 529 6000www.capitaltheatres.com
Current Status: Dark

The Playhouse – Box Office: 0844 871 3014 – www.atgtickets.com
Current Status: Dark

The Royal Lyceum Theatre – Box Office 0131 248 4848 – https://lyceum.org.uk
Current Status: Dark

Scottish Storytelling Centre – 0131 556 9579 https://www.scottishstorytellingcentre.com/
Current Status: Show Cancellation

Summerhall – Box Office 0131 560 1581 – https://www.summerhall.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Traverse Theatre – Box office: 0131 228 1404www.traverse.co.uk
Current Status: Dark

Glasgow:

Glasgow Tramway – Box Office 0845 330 3501 – https://www.tramway.org/Pages/home.aspx
Current Status: Dark

King’s Theatre Royal – Contact Info 0844 871 7648 – https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/kings-theatre-glasgow/info/
Current Status: Dark

Òran Mór – Contact Into 0141 357 6200 – https://oran-mor.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Pavilion Theatre – Box Office 0141 332 1846 – https://www.paviliontheatre.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Royal Conservatoire Scotland – Box Office +44 (0) 141 332 5057 – https://www.rcs.ac.uk/coronavirus-faqs/
Current Status: Suspending productions until further notice

The Tron Theatre – Box Office 0141 552 4267 – https://www.tron.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Performing Arts: Encompassing The Lemon Tree, His Majesty’s Theatre and The Music Hall – 01224 641122 – https://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/coronavirus/
Current Status: Dark

The Trivoli Theatre – Contact Number 01224 592755 – https://thetivolitheatre.com/
Current Status: Dark

Dundee and Perthshire:

Dundee Rep – Box Office 01382 223530 – https://www.dundeerep.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

The Space – https://www.dundee.com/activity/space
Current Status: Dark

Perth Theatre & Concert Hall – Box Office 01738 621031 – https://www.horsecross.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Fife:

The Adam Smith Theatre – Box Office 01592 583302 – https://www.onfife.com/venues/adam-smith-theatre
Current Status: Show Cancellations

The Alhambra Theatre – Box Office 01383 740 384 – https://alhambradunfermline.com/
Current Status: Show Cancellations

The Byre Theatre – Box Office 01334 475000 – https://byretheatre.com/
Current Status: Dark, starting March 15th until May 31st

Rothes Hall – Box Office 01592 611101https://www.onfife.com/venues/rothes-halls
Current Status: Show Cancellations

Stirling:

The Macroberts Art Centre –  01786 466666https://macrobertartscentre.org/
Current Status: Dark

Ayr:

The Gaiety Theatre – Box Office 01292 288235 – https://thegaiety.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Greenock:

The Beacon Arts Centre – 01475 723 723https://www.beaconartscentre.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Highlands:

Eden Court – Box Office 01463 234 234 – https://eden-court.co.uk/news/statement-on-covid-19-coronavirus
Current Status: Dark

Pitlochry Festival Theatre – Box Office +44 (0)1796 484 626 – https://pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com/
Current Status: Dark

Dumfries:

The Theatre Royal – Box Office 01387 254209 – https://www.theatreroyaldumfries.co.uk/
Current Status: Dark

Honourable Mention:

The Royal & Derngate (Theatre & Cinema) – Box Office: 01604 624811 – https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/
Curent Status: Dark

This page shall update if & when information is received, in the meanwhile stay safe, smart and support your local arts. They’re going to need it in the coming months.

Mrs Puntila and her Man Matti – Lyceum Theatre

Written by Bertold Brecht

Adapted by Denise Mina

Directed by Murat Daltaban

Never accept charity instead of your rights” – this exceptionally powerful excerpt from Denise Mina’s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s socialist satire had the potential to solidify a lacerating piece of Scottish theatre but instead sits as the dribbles of a once splendid cocktail, knocked to the floor.

We are no longer following an aristocrat in Finland, no, far from it – we’re right on our back doorstep. With Scotland’s cherished Elaine C. Smith taking the gender-switch role of Mrs Puntila, the drunken Scottish landowner who adores one thing above a drink – a nightcap. Her faithful chauffer Matti, the quintessentially clever sober in this master-servant comedy could potentially find himself betrothed to Puntila’s daughter Eva, in place of her fiancé the Attache.

Updating this socialist satire, Mina desires to paint Mrs Puntilla as the lush in our lives, usually an ‘aunt’, who has no relation to us whatsoever. Ideally, Puntilla should be the Jekyll & Hyde, the opportunistic split-self, but Murat Daltaban’s interpretation of Smith’s character casts too wide a net. In reality, the distinction between the bitter, callous and cold (sober) Puntilla isn’t discernible from the inebriate. Unengaging, Smith feels stagnant throughout much of the production, disjointed from the room. Largely down to Daltaban’s direction, structure seems devoid for the most part, scenes rolling into the other, broken by musical introductions. Interludes of sorts, which become indecipherable in a cauldron of noise, poor audio quality and repetitious scoring which tunes the ears out.

Who does make a positive impression is Lyceum favourite Steven McNicoll. Instantly a connection forges with driver Matti, it’s difficult not to fall for his witty cynicism or deft control of the stage. Bouncingly lyrical in attitude, McNicoll achieves the only firm laughs this evening, which is still a stretch. A production of extremes, McNicoll sells the mood but sits in stark contrast to the deep-rooted gravity of the nihilistic social injustice performances. The two extremes find no correlation, the humour isn’t landing, which costs earnest tonal changes to feel abrupt, uncertain and, while powerful, merely skin deep.

And this is precisely where Brecht’s original text understood the exaggeration, the utmost extreme, of farcical nonsense. The satire has two attacks – a precise scalpel, or a blundering hammer. Uncomfortably alienating, Mina’s adaptation attempts to spin the plates, making peculiar decisions across the board. Principally, the script adaptations have merit, especially with Scot’s language, but characterisation falls flat, Joanne McGuiness never managing more than a furrowed brow of confusion, until a burst of aggression toward the Act 2 closing.

It all comes too late, as the satire dies, the partygoers are shuffling to their feet, booking taxis and hunting for the nearest chippy. They’re done, ready to go home, and the brutally biting political commentary hits, but not nearly as viscerally as it ought. Stood, a self-proclaimed owner of the Scottish lands, boozed up and arrogant, Puntilla rides through the groaning feast below, Flower of Scotland blaring, a symbol of the aristocracy who preach the beauty of the land they violate. That line, on how charity isn’t an excuse to ignore basic rights, is perhaps one of the sincerest and accurate sentences theatre will utter this year, and while you may forget much of this production, do not forget these examples of Mina’s conceptual ability. 

It is here, atop the moving staircase, where Tom piper’s design work once again elevates a production, this time keeping it from rock bottom. Reflecting the comedy of profession era, noted in the large dog masks as the production opens, Piper’s design is stripped back. A bare-bones set, relying on the raw metal and woodwork to communicate purpose, this is a skeleton of a stage where the cast are its muscle – and the gym was sorely needed. It feels vast, hollow, ravaged, which should (the operative word here) be symbolic of the promises made by Puntila, but it just feels empty.

 A fizz without bubbles, a gin without lime, Mrs Puntilla and Her Man Matti has vision, intent and talent, which are put to squander. Dull satire damages an entire production, one which bolsters such incredible statements and diverse talent. Mina’s adaptation has teeth, razor blades protruding from the gums, but these are brandished, rather than used. Instead, a gentle gnawing around thick, juicy satire on social class is left unscathed, and lacking humour. 

Mrs Puntila and her Man Matti runs at The Royal Lyceum Theatred until March 21st. Tickets are available from: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/mrs-puntila-and-her-man-matti

Photo credit – Mihaela Bodlovic