The Month in Scottish Theatre: January 2019

The return of Glasgow Girls, survival against the odds, and a couple of appearances from Rabbie Burns are just a few of the highlights in Scotland’s theatres following the tinsel and dames of panto season

Preview by Amy Taylor | 08 Jan 2019
  • Glasgow Girls

While some of the pantos of Scotland finished last month, a few are still going on (we see you, we appreciate you, it’s only ten more months before panto rehearsals begin again). January 2019 is shaping up to be a colourful and exciting month.

Seven years after its explosive debut, Cora Bissett’s award-winning musical drama Glasgow Girls returns with a new cast and a new tour of Scotland, which kicks off on 15 January at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre. Based on the true story of a group of seven Glasgow schoolgirls who, when faced with one of their friends being deported, decided to stand up and do something for all child asylum seekers in Scotland. The tour will also call at King's Theatre, Edinburgh (23-26 Jan), Perth Theatre (30 Jan-3 Feb), and Eden Court, Inverness (7-9 Feb).

Another musical returning after a long absence is Les Misérables, which opens at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh on 22 January. Come for the songs, stay for the revolution in this dynamic new staging, which has already sold out, but keep your fingers crossed for returns. 

Louise Welsh and Stuart MacRae return with their fourth operatic collaboration, Anthropocene, which opens at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow on 24 January before touring to Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre (31 Jan-2 Feb) and the Hackney Empire in London (7-9 Feb). Set in the frozen Arctic wastelands, this new opera follows an expeditionary team of scientists as they become trapped, and it soon becomes apparent that they are not alone.

Keeping up with themes of extreme cold weather and isolation, the Royal Lyceum Theatre’s first production of the new year is the long-awaited stage adaptation of Joe Simpson’s bestselling memoir, Touching the Void (24 Jan-16 Feb). Adapted and directed by David Greig, the play follows Simpson and his climbing companion Simon Yates in their infamous attempt to be the first to scale the Siula Grande mountain in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. Although successful, Simpson’s fall during the descent leads to Yates facing an appalling dilemma; perched on an unstable snow slope, with Simpson hanging from a rope below him, knowing that they will both fall if he doesn’t do anything, he cuts the rope and changes both their lives forever.  

On a lighter note, Big Burns Supper returns for its eighth year from 24 January to 3 February and brings with it a strong theatre programme. As always, based not on the man himself but on a modern reflection of his work, the festival features recognisable names, such as Alan Bissett’s The Moira Monologues (1 Feb) and The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (27 Jan). That's alongside new works presented in the festival’s new theatre space, The Container Theatre, including We Know Now Snowmen Exist (26 Jan) based on the Dyatlov Pass Incident in which nine hikers died in mysterious circumstances while trekking through the Ural mountains. Meanwhile, the festival's cabaret arm features Hans Like a German (27 Jan), Smut Slam (31 Jan), Le Haggis (25-26 Jan) and Queer Haggis (26 Jan), a night of performance from Scotland’s best LGBTQ+ artists.

Finishing off the month is Celtic Connections, and while this event is traditionally associated with music, two theatre productions have slipped on to the programme. Taking to the stage at the Tron Theatre is Gary McNair’s tragic comedy McGonagall’s Chronicles (22-25 Jan), his retelling of the life and work of “Scotland’s worst poet” Sir William Topaz McGonagall, which was recently seen at the Traverse as part of its Christmas programming. Warning: contains cabbage. Another appearance from Scotland’s more famous bard, Robert Burns, can be found in Gillian Duffy’s The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns (29 Jan) at Òran Mór. Here, the ghost of the late poet gives dating advice to a very heartbroken woman. Warning: contains songs by Rabbie Burns.