By JanPatienceArt

A Window @citizenstheatre

Went to see Lanark at The Citizens Theatre with my sister-in-law, Judith. It's an incredible production which lasts almost four hours. That sounds tortuous but it was anything but.
David Greig has done a fine job of adapting Alasdair Gray's epic dystopian odyssey, while director Graham Eatough has sewn all the elements together and made it burst into glorious - occasionally confusing - life. So very Alasdair Gray!
A thunderous applause went up at the end which was a fitting tribute to cast, crew, designers and musicians. The guy in front of us spread his arms wide and roared before leaping to his feet.
Judith and I both wrote our final year dissertations at Aberdeen University about Gray's work. We only found this out a few years ago because we didn't know each other at Uni and were there a few years apart.
Neither of us could envisage how Lanark could be adapted but we were both suitably impressed. It is poignant that Alasdair is gravely ill in hospital following a fall earlier his summer. He is in it though - and how!
At the second interval, I noticed this window. It harks back to the glory days of variety in Glasgow when the city had dozens of theatres.
Its performers; such as Jack Raymond, George West and Dave Willis, to name but a few, were huge stars on a par with footballers and celebrities of today.
The Royal Princess's Theatre became The Citizens Theatre in 1945 and - truth being stranger than fiction - it turns out that the date of this changeover was 11th September 1945.
So it's a big happy birthday to The Citz!
I did a bit of research into the Princess's Theatre and the wider variety scene in Glasgow earlier this year when I was writing a chapter of The Making of George Wyllie (now due for publication by Birlinn early next year since you ask...). I really got into the whole thing.
At the interval, I started telling Judith that The Princess’s pantos were famous for their extravagantly absurd and surreal scripts and spectacular chorus numbers.
For many years, Jack Raymond and co-star George West were the knockabout double-act who charmed audiences at the theatre. The Princess’s pantos were also famous for having thirteen letters in the name of every production.
In his youth, George Wyllie was a budding songwriter and one day in late 1939, inspired day by seeing that year's panto, Wullie Wastell, he rushed home to finish his latest song. A jaunty ditty, with two verses and four choruses, it took the war, which may have been phoney but was on everyone’s mind, as its subject matter.
The very next day, the 18-year-old engineer sent it off to Jack Raymond care of the Princess's Theatre. He did hear back - but that's another story! And it's all in the book...

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