History: Citizens Theatre Company

History: Citizens Theatre Company

The Citizens Theatre Company was formed in 1943 by James Bridie, who was at that time Scotland’s best known playwright and later founder of the RSAMD. The name of the new company was taken from the manifesto drawn up in 1909 for the Glasgow Repertory Theatre.

The Company was originally based at the Athenaeum Theatre in Buchanan St, but this building was too small and restrictive for the Company’s work. Due to post war building restrictions the Company were denied permission to build a purpose-built theatre and so instead began to investigate suitable buildings within the city which they could occupy.

By 1945 Harry McKelvie was suffering from ill health and so offered tenancy of the Royal Princess’s Theatre to James Bridie for a nominal rent and the theatre was renamed the Citizens Theatre. The Citizens Theatre officially opened on September 11th 1945 with the company’s own production of JB Priestley’s Johnson Over Jordan. 

The vision for the Citizens Theatre included accessible ticket pricing, the provision of free previews of every show and free programmes for every member of the audience (to this day, the free programme policy is still in place). It was conceived as a forum to showcase the work of the best of native playwriting.

James Bridie remained in post as Artistic Director until his death in 1951. From then until 1963, there was no overall artistic director and seasons were directed by a succession of Actor-Directors including James Gibson, Roddy McMillan and Madeleine Christie, as well as guest directors including Eric Capon, Peter Potter and John Casson. In the period between 1963-69 the were five artistic directors; Callum Mill, Iain Cuthbertson, David Williams, Michael Blackemore and Robert Cartland.

During the period from the 1969 to 2003, the Citizens was associated with innovative play selections and stagings by Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald. Under their directorship the Citizens Theatre became recognised as one of the leading theatres in Britain. In 2003 both Havergal and MacDonald stepped down from their posts as Directors of the Company, but Prowse 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. In March 2011 Dominic Hill was appointed as new Artistic Director. He took up post in October 2011.

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