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Commitment of creative individuals keeps theatre alive

The £10 million revamp of Glasgow's Citizens Theatre revealed last Saturday in this newspaper may well be "the most significant since it opened in 1878", but I well recall writing a feature for the former broadsheet Weekender section of The Herald, interviewing Giles Havergal about the unveiling of the current foyer space.

With the help of a substantial grant from the former Glasgow Development Agency, in typical Citz style the wide-open spaces envisaged by the GDA-appointed architect lasted about five minutes, before chunks were converted into two studio spaces, the smaller of which became the venue for the first production of Trainspotting, while the other survives yet.

In response to the new plans, one of our correspondents on the letters page recalled the heyday of the Close Theatre Club at the Citz, the writing studio that was destroyed by fire in 1973. Although that venue is fondly remembered by theatre-goers of that era, I am sure Havergal and his colleagues created more work on a smaller scale in the circle and stalls studios to complement the main house shows in the era when there was the funding for their theatrical multiplex.

However, if there was a successor to the Close, it was surely the Tron, which began as a theatre club before opening its doors to all, and another fine example of the commitment of a group of dedicated individuals who kitted out an abandoned church with old cinema seats and furnished the box office with an antique sideboard. Its development into the building we know now, which played a crucial role in the development of Glasgow's Merchant City, follows a remarkably similar trajectory: artistic invention and innovation attracts investment.

The most recent example of the legacy of the Close was the creation of Oran Mor (from an old church) in the west end that made possible the phenomenon of A Play, A Pie, and A Pint. David McLellan's fantastic drama factory was born of enthusiasm, now has the backing of the National Theatre of Scotland and transfers work to other venues (Dundee, Edinburgh and Ayr recently). But just like the Close and the Tron, it has been the commitment of a small group of creative individuals that has been the seed of something of which we can all be proud.

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