The famous statues that have welcomed audiences to the Citizens Theatre for decades have been restored by Scottish sculptor David J Mitchell and were dramatically returned to site as work redeveloping the iconic building in the Gorbals continues.

The stone statues of Robert Burns, William Shakespeare and the four Muses which adorned the foyer area of the theatre are a familiar sight to theatre-goers, as well as the elephants and nautch girls at the entrances to the auditorium. The history of the statues dates back to when the building first opened in 1878, and they have survived fire and demolition during their 143 year journey so far.

Protecting the unique heritage of the Citizens Theatre and improving access to it, has been a key goal of the Redevelopment project. Many of the original Victorian features, including the paint frame and stage machinery - the only surviving example of nineteenth century stage machinery in Scotland – will have new public access.

Sculptor, David J Mitchell and his team, carefully removed the statues from the building to carry out restoration work at his studio. The stone statues in particular, suffered from pollution, weathering and paint damage and some missing features were re-made from photographic records.

The six stone statues originally adorned the front of the building as part of a shared façade with the Palace Theatre. Saved from demolition in 1977 when the Palace Theatre was condemned, they were reunited in the Citizens Theatre foyer in 1989.

Architects for the project, Bennetts Associates, have ensured the stone statues will return to the rooftop of the Citizens Theatre once more in their design for the redeveloped building, creating a dramatic new focal point for Gorbals Street and the local community.

With restoration work on them now complete, the statues have been returned to site where they are safely stored until they complete their homecoming when the building re-opens in 2022.

Sculptor, David J Mitchell commented: “Being a figurative sculptor, I was delighted to be involved in the restoration project for the statues. They were in very poor condition and needed some tender love and care. Bits were missing, features were crumbling and they were quite literally being held together with paint. It was my desire to have them returned, as much as possible, to the state the artist had originally intended. As a sculptor and a Glaswegian, I felt that it was my duty to pay homage to the original sculptor, John Mossman, one of the greatest artists that Glasgow has ever produced, and save his work for future generations.”

Alex McGowan, Executive Director & Joint CEO, Citizens Theatre commented: “To see the restored statues return to site was another heartening milestone in the Redevelopment Project. At a time when theatres across the UK are facing the enormous challenges of the pandemic, it is an encouraging reminder of future plans when audiences can return to our buildings. We can’t wait to see the statues returned to the rooftop of the new Citizens Theatre when building work is complete.”




David is a sculptor and painter. Working in many different materials, David produces pieces in marble, bronze, terracotta, and plaster to achieve his artistic visions. Working from his studio in Scotland, David undertakes bespoke commissions for clients as well as producing gallery work and public monuments. The BBC recently interviewed him for their Loop series:


The redeveloped building will transform the experiences of audiences, participants and performers and secure the future of one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings and leading producing theatre companies. The project designed by Bennetts Associates will be the most comprehensive redevelopment of the category B listed building since it opened in 1878, re-designing an ageing and vulnerable building into a vibrant cultural venue for communities across Scotland. Constructed by Kier Regional Building, it will deliver improved accessibility, secure the heritage of its unique Victorian features and offer new bar and café facilities as well as rehearsal, learning and studio spaces. The building is anticipated to re-open in 2022. Key funders of the project include Glasgow City Council, Scottish Government, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Creative Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland.

Additional funding for the restoration of the statues includes The Aurelius Charitable Trust and The Henry Moore Foundation as well as several individual supporters.


The Citizens Theatre is Glasgow’s major producing theatre and one of the leading theatre companies in the UK. Over the last 75 years, the Citizens has built an international reputation for producing innovative shows on stage, alongside a highly regarded learning programme of participatory and education work. Led by Artistic Director, Dominic Hill who is regarded as having “a talent for classical drama which is genuinely world class.” (Daily Telegraph) and Executive Director, Alex McGowan, it presents bold new interpretations of classic texts that are accessible and relevant - and uniquely, where any member of the audience can attend a performance for as little as 50p. The theatre’s Victorian home in the Gorbals is currently closed while it undergoes a major redevelopment (see note above). 

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