Curtain call for Greenwich Playhouse

By Rob Virtue on February 20, 2012 12:53 PM |

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With the Greenwich Playhouse due to close in a matter of weeks, it's apt the group that has called the venue home for the past 17 years will spend its last nights there performing a tragedy.

Galleon Theatre Company is facing homelessness after the building's owner decided against renewing the group's lease.

Despite causing heartbreak for Galleon founders Alice De Sousa and Bruce Jamieson, the show must go on and they have been busy putting together a five-week run of The Duchess Of Malfi, which begins next week.

De Sousa said it would be tough to say goodbye to the venue next to Greenwich station.

"It's a huge loss for the theatre industry, local community and the cultural infrastructure of London as a whole," she said. "It's not just great classics we do, we also give up-and-coming talent a chance and put on projects from around the world others might not be brave enough to do."

The Duchess Of Malfi is a 17th century play by John Webster long admired by De Sousa. In addition to this production, she's written a script based on it, which is being turned into a film with a budget of 7.7million euros by a major Irish company.

"It's such a dark and sexy play," she said. "The language is beautiful and it's so modern because Webster was trying to change theatre. It's one of the great loves of my life."

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De Sousa produced a version at the Playhouse back in 1996 but this fresh production was an improvement on that. She also said Galleon's latest was far more courageous than the version due to appear at the Old Vic next month.

She said: "Kevin Spacey has been doing a wonderful job with the Old Vic and really turned it around. But from what I've read and heard about their version we are far more daring.

"For example the costumes we use are contemporary as a lot of the Jacobean dress can end up distancing the audience from the story."

De Sousa's version also has lighting and sets that become more medieval and Gothic as the audience gets deeper into the drama of the play.

After the play it will be last orders for the company unless they can find another home. Galleon became involved in a public spat with the Playhouse's owner Beds and Bars after it decided not to renew the group's lease. The landlord said it wanted to run the space itself while De Sousa accused it of planning to expand the hostel side of the business to have more beds in place for the Olympics.

Only time will tell whether there will be another play at the site, but whatever happens it won't feature Galleon, which has been working unsuccessfully with the Greenwich Council to find a new home.

"There's a lot of goodwill from the council but it's not yielding any firm results," said De Sousa. "We're reaching out and asking people to let us know if there is a development which will allow us in. We don't cost and we contribute a great deal."

■ The Duchess Of Malfi, Feb 21-Mar 18, various times, £13(£10),

galleontheatre.co.uk

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