Blood and Glitter: 70 years of the Citizens Theatre

Blood and Glitter: 70 years of the Citizens Theatre (9:00pm Wednesday BBC 2 Scotland) ‘looks back at seven decades of pioneering productions and goes behind the scenes of the ‘Citz’

One of the leading theatres in Britain, the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre Company was formed in 1943 by a group of Glasgow Citizens including the playwright James Bridie, who became the first President, Dr Tom Honeyman, who became the first Chairman, and the writer Guy McCrone who was the first Managing Director.

The Company was originally based at the New Athenaeum Theatre at 179 Buchanan Street. Designed by the Scottish architect Sir John James Burnet (31 March 1857 – 2 July 1938), it accommodated 800 on a small site and it was here, on the 11th of October 1943, that the new Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre presented its first production – Holy Isle, by James Bride.

Owing to the success of the first two seasons it had become increasingly obvious that the small Athenaeum, with its cramped stage and lack of facilities was hampering the smooth growth of the Company and the need to expand was becoming urgent.


It was at this time that Harry McKelvie, owner of the Royal Princess’s Theatre, (originally opened in 1878 and famous for pantomime, melodrama and the national drama) offered the Citizens’ a ten-year lease on generous terms, and on the 11 September 1945, the Citizens Theatre Company opened at the Royal Princess’s with a performance of Johnson over Jordan by Novelist and playwright. J.B Priestley.

In its early years the theatre tried to promote Scottish plays, many of them being by Bridie, who had hopes of founding a Scottish National Theatre, and had gathered together a remarkable company of Scottish actors including Duncan Macrae, Molly Urquhart, James Gibson and Stanley Baxter.

STA Ex 2_2_6eBy the 1960s the Citizens’ Theatre was one of Britain’s leading repertory theatres and under a succession of distinguished artistic directors, such as Callum Mill and Ian Cuthbertson, the company poured out an impressive range of work. From 1969, under the guiding hand of the triumvirate of Giles Havergal, Robert David MacDonald and Philip Prowse, the company presented an international repertoire, winning world wide acclaim. It was during this period “Glasgow” was dropped from the title of the company.

In 2003 both Havergal and MacDonald stepped down from their posts as Directors of the Company. Prowse, however continued his role as Artistic Collaborator until 2004. Robert David MacDonald sadly passed away in June 2004.

Jeremy Raison was appointed Artistic Director of the Citizens Theatre in November 2003 and was joined by Joint Artistic Director, Guy Hollands in 2006 (both resigned in 2010). In March 2011 Dominic Hill was appointed as new Artistic Director, taking up the post in October 2011.

In 1986 the Board of the Citizens’ designated the Scottish Theatre Archive as the official depository for the archive of the Citizens Theatre.

Items from the Scottish Theatre Archive will feature in the programme, tune in tomorrow (30th September) to find out more about one of the UK’s great theatres.

Categories: Special Collections

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1 reply

  1. Guy Holland’s is still at the citz.

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