New show for Leith Theatre

Oct 3 2018 | By More

First professional theatre show for 30 years

Leith Theatre is to re-open on Armistice Day with its first professional theatre production for 30 years with The Last Days of Mankind, an epic anti-war satire by Viennese writer Karl Kraus with songs by The Tiger Lillies.

The play, which was written between 1915 and 1919, will run for a week in November. Leith Theatre has been refurbished over two editions of the Open Door festival and was home to a music-based programme for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

Yuri Birte Anderson and John Paul McGroarty at Leith Theatre. Pic: Neil Hanna Photography.

The auditorium will be transformed into a Viennese cafe with cabaret style seating evoking the atmosphere of fin de siècle Vienna for the show which will be co-directed by Scottish director John Paul McGroarty and Yuri Birte Anderson from Theaterlabor Germany.

New music for the play, inspired by the work of Kraus, is being written by Martyn Jacques of the Olivier award winning cabaret artists The Tiger Lillies who will perform alongside a European cast in the production featuring actors from Scotland, Germany, Poland, Serbia, France, Ukraine, Poland, Ireland and England.

Jacques said: “I have already done an album about the war poets [2014’s A Dream Turns Sour], but this is very different. They were heartbroken young men waiting to die. This one is very much more sarcastic. It is humour but very black humour and of the kind I love. It is really perfect for The Tiger Lillies.”

Speaking of the background to the writing of the original play, director John Paul McGroarty said: “Kraus was one of the few artists who kept working through the war, he was writing away, taking in newspaper clippings, writing about things as they happened. He made a docudrama 100 years before anyone had a thought of a docudrama.”

Theaterlabor first came to Leith in 2015 when the Leith Theatre’s main auditorium wasn’t open although they did workshops in Leith Dockers Club.


Co-director Yuri Birte Anderson says: “Kraus was a Viennese satirist, very controversial and he recorded everything he heard and turned it into a mega docudrama. Kraus perfectly manages to capture the war discourse of his time – the feverish war craze that seems over the top to us nowadays, but it was real. This will be truly European Theatre.”

There was no full English translation of the play available, so this will be the Scottish premiere of the 2016 translation by Patrick Healy, Irish Joycean, poet, philosopher and professor. Patrick Healy said: “It is an extraordinary honour that they are using my translation. There never was a complete translation and without a translation you can’t get a complete view of what is going on.”

The last major theatrical production in Leith Theatre was in 1988. It is now run by Leith Theatre Trust, and is slowly being restored. Besides this year’s EIF shows, local amateur company B2 Productions is staging Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd on the main stage for a four night run from October 17.

Mike Griffiths, The Last Days of Mankind’s executive producer and a director of Leith Theatre Trust said: “This is a hugely ambitious production but one which seems appropriate to the rebirth of Leith Theatre.

“The theatre has also been a victim of war, so it seems fitting to present this satire of war and its destruction here in Leith as part of our commemoration of the end of another world war.”

Other artistic companies involved in the project are Teatr A Part (Poland), Plavo Pozoriste (Serbia), Association Arsène (France), Smashing Times (Ireland), Kultura Medialna (Ukraine).

In addition to The Last Days of Mankind Leith Theatre will also host Café Europa, a series of performances, talks and demonstrations led by Siegmar Schroeder, Artistic Director of Theaterlabor. Local actors, young people and community groups will be encouraged to take part in the programme which will explore themes of war, conflict, Europe and political engagement.

The play will preview on Saturday 10 November, opening on Sunday 11 November and will run until Friday 16 November.

Tickets and details:

The script of Last Days of Mankind is available through Amazon. Click image for details:


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