Women writers and directors dominate Edinburgh Lyceum season for first time

Director Roxana Silbert, whose production of What Shadows features in the Royal Lyceum's female-led 2017/18 season. Photo: John James
by -

  • David Greig’s second season as artistic director launched
  • Ian McDiarmid returns to Lyceum stage after 45 years
  • New work by Suhayla El-Bushra, Fleur Darkin with Jemima Levick, and James Ley

Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum 2017/18 season will, for the first time, contain more works written and directed by women than men.

The 10-show season marks David Greig‘s second year as the theatre’s artistic director and the final year of a three-year funding cycle in which it received a substantial cut to its Creative Scotland grant. It contains six shows written by women and four by men and six shows directed by women and four by men.

Greig told The Stage that the season was born on the day after the UK’s European Union referendum. For the first time in several years, the theatre’s programme contains no plays by Shakespeare or any writer on the school syllabus.

He said: “I was walking into Edinburgh and I was dizzied and bewildered. I wasn’t sure what world I had woken up in. That feeling has persisted and redoubled as the months have gone by.”

The theatre’s response, he says, could either have been to provide safe productions that gave people work they knew or to give the audience productions that reflect back to them the questions they are asking about the world.

“The risk is not to take a risk,” Greig added. “The world has gone nuts, we don’t know what is happening. The real risk is that we look like some flat-footed dinosaur. We have to go full tilt towards the issues. There is no danger that this season will not be happening in interesting times.”

The season includes the Scottish premiere and first revival of Cockpit, a West End hit in 1948 for Bridget Boland. The play is set in a German theatre commandeered by the British army to house refugees.

Fleur Darkin, artistic director of Scottish Dance Theatre, and Jemima Levick, artistic director of Stellar Quines, are creating and directing a new adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ semi-autobiographical novel The Lover.

The season opens with the Birmingham Rep production of Chris Hannan’s What Shadows, directed by Roxana Silbert, which will bring Ian McDiarmid back to the theatre for the first time since 1972. Also revived is Karine Polwart’s 2016 Edinburgh International Festival hit Wind Resistance.

Tony Cownie is adapting and directing The Belle’s Stratagem, Hannah Cowley’s late-18th-century riposte to George Farquhar’s romantic comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, which Cownie is relocating to Edinburgh.

As previously announced, the Lyceum will be staging Zinnie Harris’ new version of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, after premiering it during the EIF. The only production of the season both written and directed by men is Greig’s own adaptation of Strindberg’s Creditors, which will be directed by Stewart Laing.

Outside the subscriber season, Suhayla El-Bushra is writing a new version of Arabian Nights for the Royal Lyceum’s Christmas show, James Ley’s homage to Edinburgh’s first gay and lesbian bookshop, Love Song to Lavender Menace, is playing the rehearsal space, and Peter Handke’s delayed The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other will get three dates in June.

Greig added: “A few years ago, we might have thought diversity in theatre was a thing we did because it was morally right, a bit like recycling your bottles or something.

“What has become clear to me in the last couple of years is that when you attend to representation, in terms of who is telling the stories and whose stories you are telling, your programme becomes more interesting and exciting.”

Edinburgh Royal Lyceum season 2017/18 at a glance

What Shadows
By Chris Hannan
Directed by Roxana Silbert
Starring: Ian McDiarmid
September 7 to 23, press night September 12

By Bridget Boland
Directed by Wils Wilson
Music by Alasdair Macrae
Designed by Ana Ines Jabares-Pita
October 6 to 28, press night October 10

Wind Resistance
By Karine Polwart
Directed by Wils Wilson
Dramaturgy by David Greig
November 3 to 11, press night November 3

Arabian Nights
Adapted by Suhayla El-Bushra
Directed by Joe Douglas
November 25 to January 6, press night November 30

The Lover
By Marguerite Duras
Adapted for the stage by Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick
Co-directed by Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick
Designed by Emma Jones
January 20 to February 3, press night January 23

The Belle’s Stratagem
By Hannah Cowley
Adapted and directed by Tony Cownie
February 15 10 March 10, press night February 17

By Eugene Ionesco
In a new version by Zinnie Harris
Directed by Murat Daltaban
March 23 to April 7, press night March 24

By August Strindberg
Adapted by David Greig
Directed by Stewart Laing
April 27 to May 12, press night May 1

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other
By Peter Handke
In a translation by Meredith Oaks
Directed by Wils Wilson
Movement by Janice Parker
May 31 10 June 2 June, press night June 1

Love Song to Lavender Menace (staged in Lyceum rehearsal space)
By James Ley
Directed by Ros Philips
October 12 to 21, press night October 13