Lambeth’s “Dodgy” Theatrical Past explored in new online talk

Interested in Music Hall, history and scandal?

That’s most of us, then!

Well, you won’t want to miss out on watching Jon Newman’s talk LAMBETH’S THEATRES: THE OLD VIC AND THE REST, which takes us on a vivid, whirlwind tour of Lambeth’s unlicensed theatres of the 19th Century.

Gathering its material from the extensive Lambeth Archives, the talk takes place online on Thursday 4th February at 7.00pm GMT.

You need to book to attend, by emailing and requesting access to the online talk.

Hope to “see” you there!

Theatres at Risk – those on the critical list in 2021

Ramsbottom’s CoOp Music Hall dating from the 1870s, the only addition to the list for 2021.

The Theatres Trust has today published its annual Theatres At Risk Register, which is its 14th year of publication. Yet again this year, the North West of England has the highest concentration of endangered buildings.

This year’s list of 31 UK theatre buildings are those most at risk of being lost due to closure, irreversible changes, demolition or simply neglect. With the appropriate help these historic (sometimes but not always listed) buildings could once again become vital assets to their communities. Once lost, they will never return.

Of the 31 theatres, 24 are in England with 10 of those in the north west and 4 in London. 3 are in Wales and 3 are in Scotland.

Changes from last year are minimal partly due to the pandemic, with the addition of just one building- the Co-Op Music Hall in Ramsbottom, near Bury, which dates from the 1870s and survives above a number of retail outlets, forgotten and neglected until very recently. Isn’t it astonishing how the UK’s building stock can still reveal forgotten treasures, even into the 21st century?

Last year’s new new addition to the list was the Grade II listed Groundlings Theatre in Portsmouth which suffered from the effects of break-ins and vandalism as well as a neighbouring redevelopment threat during 2019. The biggest thing impeding progress now is a very short-term lease which is the main stumbling block to unlocking further grant eligibility.

Positive steps have been made with the theatres who received financial and advisory support from the excellent Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme – Leith Theatre, Derby Hippodrome, Burnley Empire, Morecambe Winter Gardens, Salford Victoria, Spilsby Theatre, Swindon Mechanics’ Institute, along with Walthamstow Granada (you can read about my own visit to the Walthamstow Granada here).

Launched as a pilot scheme in 2019, the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme is particularly important because it provides grants and in-depth advice from the Theatres Trust for the early stage work that is often difficult to fundraise for but essential to set theatres at risk on the path to survival and revival. It is certainly proving its value in driving renovation projects forward, which is to be celebrated in this otherwise uncertain time.

This new Register further reminds us of the extensive, valuable work which the Theatres Trust do to help keep our precious entertainment buildings from the wrecker’s ball. It is especially needed during times when daily observation and intelligence is restricted due to the constraints of lockdowns.

To explore the full 2021 Theatres at Risk Register, click here

Views: Tragedy follows Farce: driving the arts into a wall at speed

Tell your children. This is what Failure looks like.

So here we are, then. 2021.

As the UK takes the strain of a third lockdown, what news of our beleaguered arts and entertainment world?

Let’s start with the little good news we have. On January 15th, the UK’s Supreme Court adjudged on the side of businesses and against insurers who were trying to rat out of their obligations, refusing to pay out business interruption insurance. This was a heartening step, to know that many arts organisations and venues would get a measure of compensation for the losses they have had to endure.

However, for many it was no use, as organisations of smaller sizes never had that kind of insurance in the first place.

Then the next phase of the Cultural Recovery Fund was announced, though it was a mixture of grants and loans (let’s not overstate government largesse here, folks), and at only 20% the size of the original fund, hardly all-encompassing. There were ever fewer sightings of (apparently) Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, neatly described by The Guardian’s John Crace as”a man with the hunted look of Foxton’s worst-performing estate agent”.

Further, the insurance-backed programs so quickly provided to the film and TV world haven’t materialised for theatre. Not exactly a level playing field, then. The government balks at covering what its pals in the insurance industry don’t want to do because, rather like the UK’s trains being halted by the wrong kind of leaves on the railway tracks, this risk is the wrong kind of risk – so they aren’t playing ball. And the government have once again left the theatre and performance industries without the right support.

For many producers, the approaching Spring restart dates optimistically set up for some shows are feeling increasingly tight, and therefore likely to move back further. The key thing the industry needs is a measure of certainty, which we do not currently have – and will not have for many months yet. It’s all about what risk producers are prepared to shoulder.

And what else has happened this year? Oh, yes, a little thing called Brexit. You may not have come across it, but basically it’s a government plan to destroy most of the UK economy in exchange for some magic beans. No, sorry I am getting my panto wires crossed here. Or am I? In the weeks since the whole debacle kicked off, we have fishermen unable to sell fish to their biggest markets, lorries being turned back from EU borders due to incomplete or incorrect paperwork and small businesses being advised by the UK government to set up shop in the EU! Eh?

In news which underlined the government’s startling incompetence, the fisheries minister admit she didn’t even read the Brexit agreement because she was busy at her kid’s nativity (what’s the fate of a nation of 60 million people against a photo op for the family album, eh?). We later learned that UK negotiators (and I use that term so incredibly loosely) refused the idea of 90-day visa free EU travel for artists and performers to enable the continuation of touring of arts and entertainment reciprocally between the EU and the UK. Just to repeat- it was the EU which offered this, and the UK which turned it down flat. Why? because (according to reports) the UK didn’t want to offer the same courtesy to EU performers visiting the UK. Can you believe the arrogance and sheer stupidity?

UK negotiators make these guys look like Nobel Prize winners

So the vast numbers of people involved in touring shows, concerts and other events cannot now work outside the UK without endless documentation and reams of red tape which- do not forget – was brought upon us only by this government’s incompetence. The likelihood that this will make touring financially unviable is almost certain.

And still, almost one year later since the pandemic closed the arts, do we have any help for the 70% of the industry who are freelancers? Nothing. People are going without the basics of life and the government does nothing to help them. These talented people are retraining, leaving the industry they have spent years in because they are not being supported, whereas millions of others are helped left, right and centre. Don’t talk to them about a level playing field. Thinking ahead to when we have lost this wealth of talent, what point is there in saving venues if we have no-one to put shows into them?

Credit where its due, the Society Of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre have done a sterling job, like many organisations – practically reinventing themselves overnight, and they have distributed over £5million of donated money to those in the industry who are without work or support and in need.

Of course, behind this government’s arrogance, ignorance and incompetence I have a feeling that there is actually a plan, but it’s not one that any of us voted for. You can’t run from the sickening feeling that the government and their hedge fund cronies have been betting on the UK economy to tank, driving it into a wall so they can pick up the insurance money. No worries about a big payout for them. Little did those constantly lied-to Brexit voters realise when they voted that the “sunlit uplands” Boris talked about were reserved exclusively for the Upper Class.

With thanks to The Guardian for news links

Watch Now for Families: Little Angel Theatre’s THE GIRL AND THE RAVEN

Young viewers will love this short adaptation of the Icelandic folk legend of The Girl and The Raven. The story is based on events surrounding a huge landslide in Vatnsdalur, Iceland in 1545, laying waste to the farm of Skíðastaðir. Tradition says that one girl survived in an extraordinary manner…

It is a Handbendi Production, supported by Little Angel Theatre.

This film will be released for free on the Little Angel Theatre YouTube channel.

The show lasts approximately 10 minutes and is available for one year.

Although this show is free to watch, please consider making a donation to the Little Angel Theatre which does vital work in helping younger children to access the joy of theatre.


Created by Greta Clough
Performed by Sigurður Líndal þórisson (narrator) and Elín Rannveig Líndal (girl)
Music by Paul Mosley
Sound design by Sigurvald Ívar Helgasson

Handbendi is a professional puppetry and theatre production company based in Hvammstangi, Northwest Iceland.

Greta Clough is the artistic director and creative producer of Handbendi. Greta is an award winning international performer, director, and playwright. She is the former Associate Artist of Little Angel Theatre and has over a decades experience creating and touring original theatre productions around the world.


Finalists announced for 2021 OFFIES Awards

One of the highlights of the theatre year comfortingly continues despite Covid interruption as the OFFIES finalists are announced, celebrating the best in theatre outside the West End, on smaller, more intimate stages.

Despite the smaller numbers of entrants, there is still much talent to be celebrated in the shortlists and finalist lists.

Some categories did not have enough entries to be considered competitive and therefore finalists were not announced. The biggest oversight in this approach is that Temi Wilkey, author of the brilliant THE HIGH TABLE, is not eligible to win Most Promising New Playwright, a title which she eminently deserves.

In the set design award, the most interesting for me is Casey Jay Andrews’ complex and intriguing constructions for LOCKDOWN TOWN which opened in London in October 2020, a journey through the history of music expertly produced by Tim Wilson.

Musicals-wise, dynamic and savvy independent producer Katy Lipson has been rewarded with a slew of nominations for her shows RAGS and THE LAST FIVE YEARS across performance, direction, Musical Direction, production and lighting.

In terms of plays, there are several standouts here. The finest all-round production for me was Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre’s inspired revival of Lucy Prebble’s THE SUGAR SYNDROME, with every member of the cast nominated but lead by a mesmerising performance (fresh out of drama school) by Jessica Rhodes, of whom you will hear much, much more I am certain.

Athena Stevens’ challenging drama SCROUNGER also picked up an impressive array of nominations, well-deserved for its originality and sometimes uncomfortable truth.

The winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony held on February 21st.

Congratulations to all the those celebrated in these shortlists!

For a full list of all the nominees and finalists, visit the OFFIES website here

You can find a full list of the finalists below.

OFFIES 2021 finalists

Design; Set

FINALIST: Casey Jay Andrews / Lockdown Town

FINALIST: Lucy Osborne / Afterplay / Coronet Theatre

FINALIST: Patrick Connellan / The Incident Room / New Diorama with Greenwich Theatre

Design: Lighting

FINALIST: Jamie Platt / The Last 5 Years / Southwark Playhouse

FINALIST: Malcolm Rippeth / Afterplay / Coronet Theatre

FINALIST: Tom White / Macbeth / Wiltons Music Hall

Design: Sound

FINALIST: Max Pappenheim / Sunnymead Court / Tristan Bates Theatre

FINALIST: Neil Bettles / Petrichor / Theatre Royal Stratford East

FINALIST: Yaiza Varona / The Incident Room / New Diorama with Greenwich Theatre

Musicals: Lead Performance

FINALIST: Carolyn Maitland / Rags / Park Theatre

FINALIST: Frances Barber  / Musik / Leicester Square Theatre

FINALIST: Molly Lynch  / The Last 5 Years / Southwark Playhouse

FINALIST: Oli Higginson / The Last 5 Years / Southwark Playhouse

Musicals: Supporting Performance

FINALIST: Beaux Harris  / Blitz! / Union Theatre

FINALIST: Dave Willetts / Rags / Park Theatre

FINALIST: Rachel Izen / Rags / Park Theatre

Musicals: Musical Director

FINALIST: George Dyer / The Last 5 Years / Southwark Playhouse

FINALIST: Joe Bunker / Rags / Park Theatre

FINALIST: Michael Bradley / Pippin / Garden Theatre at the Eagle

Musicals: Director

FINALIST: Bronagh Lagan / Rags / Park Theatre

FINALIST: Jonathan O’Boyle / The Last 5 Years / Southwark Playhouse

Musicals: Production

FINALIST: Pippin / Garden Theatre at the Eagle / LAMBCO Productions

FINALIST: Rags / Park Theatre / Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment

FINALIST: The Last 5 Years / Southwark Playhouse / Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment in association with Edward Prophet and People Entertainment Group

Ensemble: Performance

FINALIST: Stephanie Booth & Hannah Livingstone / We Were Having A Perfectly Nice Time / Omnibus Theatre

FINALIST: Ryan Anderson, Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, Tanisha-Mae Brown, Joanne Clifton, Harry Francis, Dan Krikler / Pippin / Garden Theatre at the Eagle

FINALIST: Rachel Barnes, Laurie Jamieson, Nigel Taylor, Daniel Ward / The Canary and The Crow / Arcola

Plays: Lead Performance

FINALIST: James Demaine / Nuclear War / Buried / Graceland / Old Red Lion

FINALIST: Jessica Rhodes / The Sugar Syndrome / Orange Tree Theatre

FINALIST: Sam Crane / The Rage of Narcissus / Pleasance

Plays: Supporting Performance

FINALIST: Ali Barouti / The Sugar Syndrome / Orange Tree Theatre

FINALIST: John Hollingworth   / The Sugar Syndrome / Orange Tree Theatre

FINALIST: Leigh Quinn  / Scrounger / Finborough

Plays: Performance Piece

FINALIST: Daniel Ward / The Canary and The Crow / Arcola

FINALIST: Lucy McCormick / Lucy McCormick, Post Popular / Soho Theatre, Johnson & Mackay & United Agents

FINALIST: Miguel Hernando Torres Umba / Stardust / Roundhouse

Plays: New Play

FINALIST: Sam Steiner / You Stupid Darkness! / Southwark Playhouse

FINALIST: Sergio Blanco / The Rage of Narcissus / Pleasance

FINALIST: Athena Stevens  / Scrounger / Finborough

Plays: Director

FINALIST: Jim Pope / Can I Help You? / Omnibus Theatre

FINALIST: Lily McLeish / Scrounger / Finborough FINALIST: Phoebe Barran / Tryst / Chiswick Playhouse