Royal Lyceum presents a politically charged autumn season

Preview of the Royal Lyceum's politically charged autumn season

David Greig / credit: Aly Wight

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


The whole theatre becomes a stage and all of Europe the actors in Bridget Boland’s explosive 1947 drama.

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Fri 6 Oct

£14–£32 / 0131 248 4848

Sat 7 Oct

£14–£32 / 0131 248 4848

Sun 8 Oct

£14–£32 / 0131 248 4848

…and 20 more dates until 28 Oct

What Shadows

Ian McDiarmid stars as Enoch Powell in Birmingham Repertory Theatre's staging of Chris Hannan's drama about how a politically divided country moves forward in the wake of a crisis. Directed by Roxana Silbert.

Park Theatre, London N4

Wed 27 Sep


£18.50–£29.50 (Children £15) / 020 7870 6876

Thu 28 Sep


£18.50–£29.50 (Children £15) / 020 7870 6876

Fri 29 Sep


£18.50–£29.50 (Children £15) / 020 7870 6876

…and 21 more dates until 28 Oct