Raising the curtain
The List steps out from the wings and showcases the very best performance spaces and cherry picks the shows you cannot afford to miss.
253 Argyle Street, 0141 565 1000, www.thearches.co.uk
So much more than simply a theatre, this subterranean cultural institution that's located, as its name suggests, beneath a series of railway arches, also programmes live music, club nights, visual art, multimedia festivals and all manner of alternative events (such as Dr Sketchy's Anti Art School, on Sun 21 Sep, which combines burlesque dancers with life drawing classes).
With its funky bar/café, The Arches has been a hip hangout for years, but newly appointed artist director Jackie Wylie promises not to rest on the venue's laurels and to keep things cutting edge with a freshly launched season of theatre and live music.
119 Gorbals Street, 0141 429 0022, www.citz.co.uk
Affectionately known as 'The Citz', this much-loved venue in the Gorbals is home to the Citizens' Company. Founded in 1943 as a community venue for accessible theatre, The Citz has stuck by its mandate and to this day produces all of its own work (including building all of the sets and fashioning all of the costumes). And youth theatre and educational events are staged courtesy of the TAG Theatre Company, which has been the venue's sister outfit since 1967. Highlights of the new season include a production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (from 22 Oct).
297 Bath Street, 0870 060 6648 http://www.theambassadors.com/kings/
Known primarily for its musicals and pantomimes, this lovely old Edwardian theatre also puts on drama, dance and comedy. It's currently undergoing a much-needed six-year restoration project (although the venue will stay open) that's scheduled to be completed, in 2014, in time for the Commonwealth Games.
The Ramshorn Theatre
98 Ingram Street, 0141 548 2542, http://www.strath.ac.uk/culture/ramshorn
Housed in one of the city's most beautiful kirks, the Ramshorn is another fine example of the rebirth of Glasgow's religious and industrial buildings as performance spaces. The 18th century edifice, which is home of the University of Strathclyde Drama Centre, makes good use of its intimate space with
a mix of theatre (including the popular lunchtime radio plays), stand-up comedy, live music and readings (the annual event Writerfest has seen the likes of Scots authors Ian Rankin, Edwin Morgan and William McIlvanney perform here). Forthcoming highlights include a production of playwright, cartoonist and screenwriter Jules Feiffer's 1970 anti-war satire The White House Murder Case (from 27 Oct).
Sharmanka Kinetic Gallery
64 Osborne Street, Glasgow; after April 2009: Trongate 103, 552 7080, www.sharmanka.com
This genuine oddity, housed in Glasgow's historical Merchant City quarter, is home to the Sharmanka Theatre company founded by Russian sculptor/mechanic Eduard Bersudsky and his director wife Tatyana Jakovskaya in St Petersburg in 1989, and relocated to Scotland in 1996. It houses what Bersudsky calls 'kinemats', strange moving sculptures-cum-machines assembled from junk that are bathed in coloured lights and perform to eerie carnival music (Thu and Sun 7pm, Sun matinee 3pm, private viewings by appointment). Think Heath Robinson meets Hieronymus Bosch. (You can also see Bersudsky's Millennium Clock, a disturbing symbol of human suffering located in Edinburgh's Royal Museum of Scotland.)
282 Hope Street, 0870 060 6647, www.theatreroyalglasgow.com
This glorious Victorian venue hosts a variety of drama, dance, comedy, music and children's events, as well as currently being home to both the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet. Highlights of the mainstream-orientated programming include La Traviata (from 30 Oct) and West Side Story (from 11 Nov).
25 Albert Drive, 0845 330 3501, www.thetramway.org
As its name suggests, this performance and art space was formerly Glasgow's main tram terminus. Since it was remodeled in the late 1980s, the impressive industrial shed has attracted the likes of Peter Brooks, Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Lepage. One of the most significant developments in the venue's two-decade history has been the creation of The Hidden Gardens, a peaceful haven landscaped on a portion of the site that was partially demolished and now open to exploration. And next year sees the development of the remaining derelict parts of the building, which will become the new headquarters of the Scottish Ballet.
63 Trongate, 0141 552 4267, www.tron.co.uk
Situated on a site first occupied by a 16th century kirk (and later in the 18th century a council Tollbooth that was burned down by the notorious Hellfire Club), The Tron is stepped in history. Once it got up and running as a theatre in 1980, it swiftly established itself as the place to discover new writing and talent. Famous names who got their break at The Tron include Ewan Bremner, Peter Capaldi, Alan Cumming, Peter Mullan and Elaine C Smith. New artistic director Andy Arnold (previously at The Arches) makes his directing debut at the venue with the premiere of Scottish playwright Ioanna Anderson's Six Acts of Love (from 4 Oct), which is followed by in-house productions of Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer and Christmas panto fun with Mother Goose.
11b Bristo Place, 0131 225 9873, www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/bedlam
Housed in a striking neo-Gothic kirk (that looks like an asylum from a Hammer horror movie), Bedlam is the oldest fully student run theatre in the UK. Home to the Edinburgh University Theatre Company, it stages upwards of 40 shows a year, from small-scale lunchtime shows to longer-running full-scale productions. It's also home to the city's longest running improv comedy troupe, The Improverts, looning it up on stage every Friday night.
14-16 Grassmarket 225 5525, www.dancebase.co.uk
Prince Charles no less opened this new-ish, purpose-built site for Scotland's National Centre for Dance in 2001. And that Dance Base's patron is international renowned choreographer Mark Morris tells you all you need to know its credibility. In addition to hosting professional performances, the venue teaches dance – everything from break-dancing to belly dancing - and caters for all ages and skill levels.
18-22 Greenside Place, 524 3333, www.edinburghplayhouse.org.uk
The grandest theatre in Edinburgh – it's a gold-leaf embossed barn – hosts commercial shows throughout the year (Mamma Mia! was here) and more high-brow performances during the International Festival in August. In addition, it's an occasional live music and stand-up comedy venue for the big names that can fill the seats. Forthcoming: Flashdance - The Musical (from 15 Sep) and Mary Poppins (from 2 Oct).
13/19 Nicolson Street, 0131 529 6000, www.eft.co.uk
Opened in 1928 as the Empire Theatre, the venue underwent restoration work in the mid-nineties and was re-opened boasting the largest stage in the UK at that time. And the Festival Theatre needs it, too, given that it's one of the main hosts for Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet. Neo-classical and art nouveau architecture contrast dramatically with the newer glass frontage which houses bars and meeting areas.
2 Leven Street, 0131 529 6000, www.eft.co.uk
Opened at the turn of the last century, this beautiful old theatre hosts visiting performance from the Royal National Theatre, local amateur companies and an and much-anticipated annual Christmas pantomime. Here you can see everything from a production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband (from 10 Nov) to Sing-a-long-a-Abba (12 Oct).
Royal Lyceum Theatre
30B Grindlay St, 0131 248 4848, www.lyceum.org.uk
Built in 1883, the boards of this venerable institution have been trod by the likes of famous Victorian actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. Over the years big names in Scottish theatre, from playwright John Byrne to actor Brian Cox have premiered work here. Today, the Lyceum showcases festival shows and youth theatre, and its forthcoming season includes JM Barrie's ghost story Mary Rose.
Cambridge Street, 0131 228 1404, www.traverse.co.uk
The Trav, as it's known, is Scotland's premiere new writing theatre. Since it was founded in 1963, it's been producing and hosting guest drama and dance that showcase the best of new and cutting edge theatre. Evidence of that is never more clear than during festival time in Edinburgh in August when The Trav regularly scoops 5 star reviews and all manner of awards for its Fringe shows. And The Trav's expansive subterranean bar/café is a great place to hang out all year round. Among the highlights of the autumn/winter season is the world premiere of David Greig and Gordon McIntyre's Midsummer.