This bothers Rachel O'Riordan, and has done so ever since the Irish-born creative director for theatre at Horsecross Arts first arrived in Perth a year ago, breathing fresh life into one of Scotland's most important repertory theatres. For all the energy that goes on in the building, it seems, that window remains stiflingly closed.
There's little to be done about it until the theatre's planned renovation takes place over the next three years, but O'Riordan hasn't let it prevent her from turning the place upside down, in an artistic sense at least. In her first season, back-to-back productions of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Frank McGuinness's hostage drama, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, and Ron Hutchinson's Hollywood romp, Moonlight and Magnolias, stacked up to make an impressive calling card. While on the surface these were tried and tested works, each production, in different ways, mined elements of comedy and tragedy in a stylistically distinctive 21st-century manner.
She also hooked up with A Play, A Pie and A Pint to present a new lunchtime play in the bar – Sex, Chips and the Holy Ghost, by Perth writer Ben Tagoe – and brought the National Theatre of Scotland's production of Men Should Weep to Perth as part of the theatre's visiting programme.
The announcement of O'Riordan's second season, exclusively revealed in The Herald today alongside plans for Perth Theatre's future, shows off even more of the director's ambitions for Perth as a major producing house. This year she will direct all four in-house productions, including the Christmas show, Mother Goose. The other three will feature work by contemporary writers, including a major coup in co-production with the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.
Opening the season will be The Odd Couple, Neil Simon's New York comedy about two very different room-mates. It will finish with April in Paris, John Godber's look at an elderly northern English couple who win a French holiday. With Aberdeen Touring Arts' new staging of Robin Jenkins's novel, The Cone Gatherers, touring to Perth in the autumn prior to Mother Goose, 2013 will begin in earnest with The Seafarers, by author of The Weir, Conor McPherson. First seen in 2006 at the National Theatre in London, McPherson's quasi-supernatural yarn set around a game of poker went on to become a hit on Broadway. O'Riordan's new production will not only be the play's Scottish premiere, but its transfer to the Lyric will also mark its first appearance in Northern Ireland.
"The main objective with this new season is to put on exquisite writing by great playwrights," O'Riordan enthuses. "They're all so different, but The Seafarer is my baby. I've wanted to direct it for years. It's an extraordinary play about alcoholism, the devil and redemption, and it's the most extraordinarily moving and intelligent piece of writing about the human condition I've read for years.
"By the same token," she continues, "Neil Simon is a very different but equally exquisite playwright. If you look at Frasier or Friends, they're all in a direct line from Simon's work. But in light of recent discussions on blogs about female casting, we're doing the female version. This allows six strong female actors to really get their teeth into comic roles in a way that they don't always get to do so."
By her own admission, April in Paris wasn't on O'Riordan's wish list of plays to do. When she read it, she discovered that "it really taps into this idea that we're all supposed to be socially mobile, yet all this couple discover once they get back from Paris is that it'll never happen again. In a time of recession, it's an important play that exposes the lie of social mobility in a way that's full of heart."
If all bodes well, there will also be another co-production with A Play, A Pie and A Pint, featuring a brand new work by Frank McGuinness.
In the longer term, O'Riordan is in development to produce a major site-specific piece set to take place at Perth railway station, which was one of the main assembly points for soldiers during the Second World War. She also has her sights set on a large-scale community production, and once the new Perth Theatre building opens in 2015, she aims to bring in young writers and directors to develop work in the new studio space.
"I feel incredibly positive," she says. "We are lucky that we have an audience that is educated, literate and committed. My challenge is to keep on refreshing that. Doing a play in the bar was an unknown quantity, especially as it was a comedy about heroin addiction, but it went down a storm and sold out. So there is an audience here who are willing to take a risk, more than they're sometimes given credit for.
"I think once the audience trust me enough to realise that everything I'm doing is for them, then that allows them to feel like they can take a punt now and then. Having said that, there is no point in doing what we do to nobody. It would be foolish and arrogant to programme something nobody wanted to see just because I fancied directing it."
O'Riordan's desire to connect with her audience goes further. "I want people to feel something," she says. "I don't mean that metaphorically. I really want people to come out of that theatre affected in some way. I really want the work we do to reach out emotionally."
Beyond the plans she's already set down, O'Riordan is exploring further collaborations, and is in preliminary talks with Dundee Rep, the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, and an as yet un-named company in New York.
"I go looking for partnerships," she says, "but it takes two, and people can say no. But everyone knows these are tricky times financially, so no-one can afford to stay in any kind of ivory tower any more. I'm continually surprised by the resilience and the spirit of the theatre scene in Scotland. There's so much going on here, and it's very collegiate in terms of people supporting each other."
In terms of Perth itself, O'Riordan has got off to a flying start and, on paper at least, her plans for the future promise much for the audience she so clearly respects. Despite the fickle nature of ambitious theatre directors, she also sounds like she's in it for the long haul.
"We have work to do, but that work has started, and achieving what we did in that first season was quite exciting," she says. "I'm immersed in my role now, which took a while. It's interesting how long it takes to fully inhabit a role. If the first season seemed like rehearsals and previews, then this new season feels like I'm in a run.
"It's nice not to be the new girl any more," she says, eyeing up the window that may yet be forced open.
Tickets for Perth Theatre's new season go on sale to the public on July 24. Season ticket subscribers can book their preferred seats now. Visit www.horsecross.co.uk.
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