Citizens Theatre Marks One Year To Go As Redevelopment Progresses

Work on the building set to complete next year with productions on stage returning by the end of 2024.

By: Dec. 08, 2023
Citizens Theatre Marks One Year To Go As Redevelopment Progresses
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As 2023 draws to a close, the Citizens Theatre marks an important milestone in its ongoing redevelopment, with work on the building set to complete next year and productions on stage returning by the end of 2024.

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 Citizens Theatre moved out of its historic home in the Gorbals in June 2018, ahead of the first major redevelopment of the Category B listed building since it began life as a Working Theatre in 1878. The last 18 months have seen several major milestones on site, including the installation of a new fly tower and the return of the theatre's original stone sculptures to the building's roof.

Designed by Bennetts Associates, the extensive redevelopment is bringing the iconic building into the 21st century. At its heart is a substantial restoration of the original sandstone Victorian auditorium, wrapped in an entirely new three storey building which crucially provides universal access for artists and audiences. It also delivers new rehearsal, participation, and studio spaces supporting expanded activities for the community and offering Scotland's rich ecology of theatre companies new spaces to rehearse and perform in. This includes a new 150 seat Studio Theatre which can have in the round or end on seating configurations. New bar facilities and social spaces will encourage audiences to linger and explore the building while improved backstage facilities and artist accommodation will be transformative for performers, creatives and visiting companies.

Key to the design is a commitment to preserve the unique heritage of the building and improve access to it, including vital structural interventions to the Victorian auditorium and stagehouse, and historic paint frame and stage machinery. New public access will be given to these heritage features through viewing windows while shows are being made and built - allowing visitors a glimpse of the talent behind the magic. Like the many old and new traditions that make up the identity of the building, the design will continue to marry heritage with a contemporary look and feel, delivering spaces full of character.

Work on site by the contractor Kier commenced in autumn 2019, before being disrupted by the Covid lockdown. Work was able to recommence under covid safety restrictions, but the pandemic and other significant UK and global events continued to have an impact on progress. The delicate work of upgrading the building while preserving its unique heritage has also resulted in several challenges during the rebuild, with various unforeseen on-site discoveries, some structurally critical, affecting overall progress to completion.

Now, one of Scotland's best loved theatre companies can start to plan for its return in 2024. Opening activities are expected from autumn next year with the first full production on stage being the Christmas show in Nov/Dec 2024.

While anticipation builds for the re-opening, fundraising continues on the project. The redevelopment has been strongly supported by key public funders including Glasgow City Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, and Historic Environment Scotland as well as a range of charitable trusts and individuals. The theatre is working closely with funders and other supporters to secure the final funds required to complete the project. It is confident that the scale and impact of the project will also continue to attract new support as it approaches the final stages of the build. 

Since moving out of its home, the Citizens Theatre has continued to present its work across Glasgow and Scotland. Its participation programme has continued to engage individuals and communities in a range of projects and weekly workshops including a recent 8 month residency in the Gorbals primary schools. The focus is now on preparations for re-opening while maintaining its participation programme across the city.

Dominic Hill, Artistic Director, Citizens Theatre said: “As we enter the final stages of the project, we eagerly anticipate returning home next year and filling our building once more with audiences, artists, participants and theatre-makers of all ages and experiences. We are grateful to the many venues and companies across Scotland who have hosted us while we continued to produce our shows in other theatres, community spaces and even car parks. But we are ultimately rooted in the Gorbals, in our own building, and we can't wait to welcome everyone to the new Citizens Theatre when we re-open in 2024.”

Alex McGowan, Executive Director, Citizens Theatre said: “It's great to feel that we are entering the final phase of the project now and can start to plan and visualise the programmes of work that will bring the building alive, igniting old and new relationships with the huge range of people the Citz engages. We have new neighbours directly across the road and old friends who are eager to return. There is still a lot of hard work to do, but we are confident that what will be achieved at the end of the project will be transformative for future generations of theatre-goers and theatre-makers.”