Curtain goes up on a new season

These new productions may not all be awe-inspiring, but they should get audiences thinking nonetheless

GLANCE at any headlines that come your way about this year's spring theatre season and you could easily persuade yourself that in order to see any worthwhile Scottish-made theatre between now and June, you would have to treat yourself to a city break in Sydney, New York or London. The National Theatre's global hit Black Watch is set to storm a series of festivals in Australia and New Zealand before returning to London, with the award-winning NTS production of Aalst – an intense Scottish-Belgian.

Yet despite this intense burst of international activity, there's also an astonishing amount of cool, cutting-edge theatre set to emerge here in Scotland this spring. Keen theatregoers should be blowing the dust off their running-shoes, and preparing to set off around the country. The season begins at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, where the annual mid-January production has become something of a box-office banker at a time of year when other companies tend to take a post-Christmas break. This year, the gifted young director Jemima Levick – creator of the Lyceum's much-admired 2005 A Christmas Carol – has been invited to stage Tennessee Wiliams's The Glass Menagerie, one of the most beautiful and lyrical plays of the 20th century. Levick's presence almost guarantees a stylish and thoughtful production.

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Then, with scarcely a pause for breath, it's north to Dundee, to catch a three-night run of Edward Bond's The Children, in a production that brings Dundee Rep's youth theatre together with leading members of the Rep ensemble. Following his huge and controversial success in the 1960s and 1970s, Bond is now one of the most neglected of all British playwrights in his own country, so seize this chance to see one of his more recent works. Then you should veer towards Glasgow, to catch the ever-stylish Arches Theatre in twin productions of two recent Irish classics, Brian Friel's Translations, and Tom Murphy's Bailegangaire, or "town without laughter".

By the end of January, though, it's essential to be back in Edinburgh, at the Stills Gallery, where Nicholas Bone's intriguing performance company Magnetic North – in a co-production with the Traverse – stages a version of Henry Thoreau's Walden, one of the most famous essays ever written on the idea of self-sufficiency and human harmony with nature.

Stay around in Edinburgh – early February sees the first Traverse visiting show of the season, Out Of Joint's touring production of a brand-new David Edgar play, Testing the Echo, about the hugely topical subject of migration, and what it means to "become British". After that, it might be worth heading to Aberdeen, to catch the only Scottish date so far for Edward Hall's new touring production of The Deep Blue Sea, Terence Rattigan's powerful postwar drama about a judge's wife – played by the gorgeous Greta Scacchi – who gets involved in a doomed affair with a former fighter pilot.

A frenzied February is also the month to catch the premiere of Static, a new co-production between the Tron, Suspect Culture and the UK's top mixed-ability company, Graeae, about the impact on those left behind when someone disappears without explanation. The script is by leading UK theatre writer and theorist Dan Rebellato. After its Glasgow premiere, which is at the Tron, the production moves on to Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness, and then across the UK.

In the middle of the month, there is also the gala premiere at the Royal Lyceum of the three-way co-production between the NTS, the Royal Lyceum and the Citiz of Pirandello's modernist masterpiece Six Characters in Search of an Author. This is a version by Scottish playwright David Harrower which won critical acclaim in London in 2001; Mark Thomson directs.

In March, there's something of a breather, but in April, children across the country – and their parents – will be queuing up to see the NTS's revival of the blissfully funny Wee Stories show The Emperor's New Kilt, an inspired Hebridean remix of the story of the fatuous king who ended up in the altogether. At the Traverse, the inimitable John Byrne offers a final flourish to his great Slab Boys trilogy of the early 1980s, bringing his characters up to date in a new play called Nova Scotia.

Finally, there's a terrific late-season flurry of stylish activity at Dundee Rep, where site-specific geniuses Grid Iron co-produce a new show called Yarn, to be presented in one of the city's former spinning-sheds; and ber-cool designer and director Stewart Laing, a veteran of both the Citizens' and Scottish Opera, presents a stage production of Jean Cocteau's 1948 film Les Parents Terribles, a searing tragicomedy about sexual hypocrisy in the traditional family that offers a fierce challenge to modern rhetoric about "family values".

Will all of these shows be brilliant? Of course not. Will they be interesting, challenging, worth discussing? Almost certainly. And in the age of Scotland's "national conversation" about its many possible futures, those who want to join a dialogue that offers fun, flair, beauty, sexiness, and imagination as well as dour debates on bread-and-butter issues could do a lot worse than to get booking for the new theatre season.


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