The other day I went past the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow. It is my favourite place of theatrical magic. Since being a very young lad, I was transfixed by the venue, at one point buying my son a birthday present of the same seat for a season of productions at a venue where I saw the actor after whom I named him, Ciaran Hinds perform Richard III.
My love affair with theatre had already long been fixed but if the local theatre, the Gaiety in Ayr, had started the flirting with my theatrical affection, the Citz was ripe and ready to take my passion and exploit it mercilessly.
And the Citz felt and looked as dirty and filthy as a teenage boy could imagine in his fantasy.
It was a black, red and gold bordello for the soul.
It is currently shut, not like the rest of the theatrical landscape, because of COVID-19 but because it is being redeveloped. The other week I saw the sculptures that had adorned its entrance being returned to be fixed back in place and my heart did a wee flutter. Virtually. It was an online picture.
Venues are clearly important to us theatre goers because they house that with which we fall in love. They are the wrapping paper on a present that platforms the performance, gives an opportunity to knock us over and a chance to meet new material and old friends.
The pandemic is going to remove large swathes of theatres from our cities and visits, of this I am sure. I have little doubt that the number of venues in the next ten years is going to be less than in the last ten. The new shiny Citizens Theatre is likely to open with less rivalry around it than before.
They shall not rejoice.
Having sped past the building, trying hard not to stare at its changes in the hope they were just shoving another coat of the same paint onto my beloved mistress, but knowing it was likely to be far more than that.
But as I passed the ghost of theatre future, wondering about the ghost of theatre present, I shed a tear of the ghost of theatre past.
Thinking of any theatre just now does bring a flood of memories about all theatre. From the Citz it took me to the Arches which was closed down in 2015 as the lack of income it required from its clubbing activities was removed due to its licence having been revoked due to issue around a club drug culture.
I wrote at the time about the dubiety of that decision, the shock of its impact upon the cultural scene of the city and the loss we were about to experience from the fall out. It was harsh and it was wrong, and it was dreadful because all theatrical life matters; but it is gone.
Years on from then, I am still reeling from the shock and when asking myself if not the Arches, which theatre could I do without, my heart revealed a simple answer.
None of them.
Even the ones filled with material I didn’t like can come back or re open. It is currently a bleak landscape. The only way to lift it is to lift the curtain and do a sight more than peek behind it. I am certainly up for that as soon as possible.