Four to five years ago, James Haddrell had the beginnings of a vision to create a brand new studio space in Greenwich Theatre to consolidate the company’s commercial and artistic success and branch out into new territory.
Now the artistic and executive director is looking forward to the very first production in the brand new studio, with Under My Thumb set to open on Wednesday, September 21.
The 40-year-old said: “It has been quite a journey and September 21 is the realisation of the idea at last. I’m really excited about that and about seeing the performance.”
The 60-70 seat venue is the result of a £400,000 investment from the Royal Borough Of Greenwich after the theatre presented the model as a commercial and artistic advancement.
As well as providing a low-cost “test-the-waters” space for small up-and-coming production companies, it also acts as a room-for-hire and enables the theatre to stage two shows at the same time – one in the smaller space and one in the 400-seat auditorium.
James said: “We’ve had shows that have been performed in front of around 60 people and have been really successful but the move to a 400-seat auditorium can be quite intimidating.
“So we thought that we should have a space for these smaller companies to fill. It’s going to help us not just in terms of local companies, but on the national theatre scene.
“This new space creates a low financial risk where the companies can try out new and exciting ideas, which sometimes might not work in larger venues.
“The studio is very flexible and we can put the seats pretty much wherever we want – we could have the audience on two sides for example.”
With the fall in subsidies to arts companies, smaller companies were more wary about over-ambitious productions, he said.
As well as the studio providing the infrastructure to those companies, there will also be a programme of masterclasses aimed at teaching artists about the business of showbusiness – marketing as well as production.
The debut production, Under My Thumb, is set in a dystopian re-imagination of the present day and was created by Culture Clash, a two-woman company that has received rave reviews at events including the Edinburgh Festival in 2015.
James, who is directing the production, said: “Under My Thumb re-imagines the present day as a society where women speak out against discrimination and are imprisoned.
“The only way they can be released is if they take responsibility for what happened to them.
“All the rehearsals have been going fantastically. It is an interesting premise and it’s an interesting way of thinking about how we use the studio.
“It’s a fully produced show but after a performance we will be running a question and answer session with the audience so that we can go back to the writer and talk about the script and discuss how to move it forward.”
Under My Thumb runs from Wednesday, September 21, to Sunday, October 2.
Tickets are available from the box office on 020 8858 7755 or by going to the Greenwich Theatre website .
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