Royal Lyceum presents a politically charged autumn season
- Gareth K Vile
- 7 September 2017
Artistic director David Greig discusses What Shadows and Cockpit
For David Greig, artistic director of Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre, his older audience members have become a source of inspiration. 'They were excited by the more experimental work in last season's programme. I think of them as my ultras, the season ticket holders who are loyal fans,' he laughs. After a first year in the post which saw a mixture of traditional theatre alongside more challenging offerings, Greig's autumn season is going bolder.
'If not now, then when?' he observes, when asked about the political content of the shows – which includes a scathing look at race relations in What Shadows and a trip back to post-war Europe in Cockpit. Greig's plays, including the 'sequel' to Macbeth, Dunsinane, have always revealed his belief in theatre's importance as a place for debate: in the aftermath of Brexit, he feels that he has a responsibility to lead the arguments.
Cockpit is a rarely revived script that Greig regards as a 'classic'. The Lyceum is reimagined as a transit camp: refugees from World War II inhabit backstage, the circle and the stalls, and old grudges, new fears and the restructuring of Berlin for the Cold War sharpens the anxiety and sense of dislocation.
Throughout the year, the Lyceum's programming reflects this awareness of history – both social and theatrical – but What Shadows pokes at the uncomfortable truth that the revival of racist rhetoric after Trump has precedents in British party politics. By staging a confrontation between Enoch Powell and a young student in the 1980s, it suggests that hate speech has never dropped out of popular discourse.
For Greig, a vision of a relevant and dynamic theatre guides his curation: and while the Lyceum's reputation for conservativism is undeserved, his regime is keen to present a lively, engaged and conscious season. And as one of Scotland's major production houses, it does much to set the tone for the year ahead.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh: What Shadows, 7–23 Sep; Cockpit, 6–28 Oct