The ever-popular Out Of The Wings Festival returns to Clapham Omnibus next week, presenting six plays over five nights to in-person, live audiences.
This is a rare opportunity to enjoy writing from the Spanish- and Portuguese- speaking world, here translated for the very first time into English.
The plays from this year’s Festival are
DOUBLE BILL: COMPLETE SEX + COSMICA
We are constantly asked to fill in forms, tick boxes and put things in black and white. But identity and gender are more complex. Not being able to tick a box doesn’t make us incomplete, quite the opposite, it can transform, empower and complete us.
It’s the first day of the final year of secondary school. Meisa lost her spots over the summer. Barrientos is late. And Juan still knows all the answers. Three teenagers feel the first blows of love, cruelty and kindness as they float somewhere between the classroom and the cosmos.
YOU SHALL LOVE
Do doctors have enemies? Do they treat everyone equally? Do they prefer one kind of patient over others? In You Shall Love, a group of doctors prepare their exposition for a conference on humanitarian aid. In the process enquiries and tensions will surge questioning their ideas on diversity, enemy and violence.
SHOPPING CENTRE PARADISE
Adam and Eve are in Paradise – a multi-storey shopping centre that claims to offer everything they want. But Adam can’t afford anything, and Eve desires it all. A funny, searching play that asks how to be happy in a world that is constantly demanding us to want more.
In an apparently mundane context, a few people start disappearing, who knows where, who knows why. A woman, alongside her husband, tries to understand what’s going on. As she dives into an ever-growing and unending search for answers, the path leads her to learn that perhaps she may never really find them.
How do you look at the enemy in the eye? A Human Rights lawyer, accustomed to solving unwanted cases, receives an unusual proposal: to organise a yoga workshop for the leaders of Peru’s most notorious terrorist groups, who are serving life sentences in a maximum-security prison since the early 90s.
You can also take a look at Out Of The Wings’ interesting website here
If there’s anyone reading this who is feeling a little unsure about returning to theatre, let me assure you that you are not alone. Many people have contacted me over the last few weeks asking about how it’s all going, are the protocols in place working, how do people feel, etc. So this seemed like a good time to take a survey some of those who have already made their way into our West End theatres. So I did. And here are the major takeaways from what they all said. Respondents visited a sample of all the West End theatre groups which are currently open and showing work, and the feedback is intended to give you a general overview, as opposed to a theatre-by-theatre approach.
Did you have instructions when to arrive on your tickets? All respondents said that their confirmation email containing their e-tickets outlined when doors would open, where to enter, and what time they needed to be seated by.
What were your feelings of anticipation of returning to the theatre? The general response was that they were really looking forward to returning, particularly supporting the industry and enjoying a night out after so many months away from live theatre.
What were your feelings upon arrival at the theatre? One respondent responded they felt a little cautious, but the rest said they felt absolutely fine, and were eagerly anticipating their show.
Were there temperature checks/bag searches/any other entry processes?If so, were they conducted well? Anything they could improve upon? All respondents reported that Front of House processes were very well managed, and that there were separate queues, depending on where in the theatre one was sitting. There was unanimous praise for the helpful staff on hand to guide patrons to the correct queue. At all venues surveyed, our respondents were asked to scan the NHS Covid check-in QR code, but there were few temperature checks reported. All of the surveyed theatres were operating bag searches before entering the theatre, and hand sanitisers were noted as being widely available throughout all the theatres surveyed. Audiences were specifically instructed to keep masks on at all times when not drinking, and staff were reported as wandering the aisles throughout to ensure compliance. Some were reported as carrying signs to remind people about wearing masks.
Did you have any ticket issues? One respondent mentioned having trouble accessing her ticket PDF on her phone, and so she was redirected to the Box Office where paper tickets were made available. Respondent noted that the staff were very helpful and unflustered by this.
Re scanning the NHS QR code, did you each have to scan or could one person do it for your party? Each person had to scan separately. Patrons who didn’t have the app were asked to manually complete a form which were readily available on entry to the theatre.
How were the staff? Were there more than you expected or less of them? Staff were very friendly and helpful and clearly delighted to be back – but also very vigilant with ensuring mask compliance throughout. It was noted that staff were doing a great job, being firm but friendly and helpful. It was also noted that there were significantly more Front of House staff than previously seen around venues.
Any issues around queuing? One respondent had to queue to buy a programme, but was not fazed by this.
How was navigating your way around the building? Very easy, with clear signage. One respondent noted that “Pre-pandemic there was always a sense of rushing in the foyers, but this was all well-ordered and good-humoured”
Any problems? None reported
Any issues with your seats or surroundings? No issues, with appropriate seats blocked off to ensure social distancing at all venues surveyed.
How full was the theatre? Very mixed reactions to this one. The lowest was from a respondent who reported around 35% of socially-distanced capacity for their performance, albeit in the first week of reopening, on Friday. Several more mentioned varying percentages, up to 100% of socially-distanced capacity for a Saturday matinee in week two of reopening.
What was “the buzz” like? Several people noted the reduced numbers affected the “buzz” in the auditorium, but for several that was compensated by the excitement of those who were there. Very few reported any feelings of nervousness or anxiety, perhaps a sign that the Front of House teams are succeeding in helping people feel comfortable, by being so vigilant and friendly. All respondents described a level of “comeback high” at the end of their performance, a step towards normality that all were grateful for.
Did your show have an interval? Was it well-managed by the staff? Several shows had an interval and overall it was reported that they were well managed, with staff and patrons being mindful and kind.
Any issues around loos/queuing/bars/etc ? No major issues, with all mentioning that patrons were bring sensible and considerate, especially in queuing for the loos, still sadly an issue for the ladies. One respondent noted an issue at the bar – “restrictions meant only one person in each party could buy drinks from the bar to prevent crowding. A gentleman went to the bar to buy 3 mini bottles of wine/bubbly and was told he couldn’t take glass back into the theatre, and had to pour these into glasses before returning, however the glasses themselves weren’t big enough to hold the volume of liquid in each bottle, and he struggled to physically carry these back”.
Another respondent noted the strict queuing system for the bars at her show’s interval. “It was just like going to the bank!” she said, “personally, I think this is a brilliant idea that should be kept.”
Were there any issues with leaving the theatre? None reported.
What was your overall impression of the theatre’s handling of the safety processes and procedures. Overall we would say staff had been very well briefed and protocols were good
Would you recommend a theatre trip to others? “Yes, absolutely!” was the unanimous response from all those surveyed. One respondent mentioned “Although the theatre was relatively empty we more than made up for it in encouragement and appreciation of the performers, and it was such a lovely evening.”
Any tips on what to look out for? Issues to avoid? Nothing specific was noted by any of the respondents.
Conclusions My thanks to all the respondents for giving me their views and sharing them with all of us. It certainly appears that West End theatres are doing a splendid job of welcoming audiences back, taking sensible measures and enforcing them with a professionalism and warmth that the West End is famous for. I hope that these responses will help you make up your own mind about when and how you return to the West End – it has certainly helped me to feel much more confident about getting back to theatre, and Seeing It Safely!
On the evening of Monday March 1st, the Streatham Society hosted a very interesting online talk by Professor Rohan McWilliams entitled “London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914”
Detailing the evolution of the area as a shopping and entertainment destination, there were a number of fascinating changes which the area went through in the nineteenth century to become an early version of what we still recognise today as the West End.
I was surprised to hear that one of the most important developments were the provision of ladies’ lavatories. Something that the West End theatres could certainly still do with a lot more of, over a century later!
We also learned where the colonnades which originally lined Regent Street were removed to – and why they had to be removed in the first place!
Fascinating glimpses of an evolution which embraced panoramas, music halls, and so much more, this was an enlightening way to spend an hour.
You can enjoy a recording of the talk which is now available here
Thanks to the Streatham Society for yet another interesting talk.
If you, like me, have been missing visiting TheatreLand , then here’s a great chance to take a leisurely stroll around one of our favourite areas alongside a Blue Badge tour guide- all from the comfort of your favourite chair!
Culture at risk: Theatreland – a virtual tour with a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide, happens this Saturday 25th September at 11.00am BST and is conducted via the Zoom platform.
The Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre, supported by the Mayor of London, Lambeth Council and The Theatres Trust, and backed by a successful crowdfunding initiative, have started work with the successful bidders of a hard fought competitive tender to produce a Viability Study and Economic Impact Assessment on the historic building. This will deliver a report on the theatre’s potential to become a multi-purpose arts and culture centre for the local community.
David Harvey, Chair of the Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre said:
“I am delighted to announce we have appointed a crack team led by renowned arts business consultants FEI to deliver this milestone work on reawakening Streatham Hill Theatre. We are confident that the team will deliver a compelling case for its use as an arts and cultural venue fit for a post-Covid renewal. Doing so will help bring new opportunities and benefits to the local economy and to the community that has given us such strong backing.”
Nick Dodds, Managing Director of FEI said:
“We are really excited to be working with the Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre to help bring this important building back to life. We have put together a very experienced team of architects, cost consultants, economists and business planners to find realistic and sustainable options for the building over the next few months. We know from experience that these projects take a huge amount of commitment and enthusiasm from the lead organisation to realise their potential – something the Friends have plenty of!”
Councillor Sonia Winifred, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture, Lambeth Council said:
“The appointment of FEI and their consultant team follows a successful crowdfunding initiative and marks a really important phase in the history of Streatham Hill Theatre. Their appointment is a critical step towards understanding what a viable future for the theatre looks like and how that can be achieved. The Council is keen to see the building play a key role in supporting local jobs, boosting the town centre economy and raising Streatham’s profile. We look forward to continuing to work with the Friends and their appointed team over the coming months!”
Claire Appleby, Architecture Adviser at Theatres Trust said:
“We are delighted to be supporting the Viability Study and Economic Impact Assessment for the Streatham Hill Theatre through our Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme. The announcement of the appointment of FEI and their consultant team to carry out these works is an exciting and important first step in the journey to breathe new life into this magnificent theatre which has been on our Theatres at Risk register since 2017.”
The viability study has been funded following an overwhelming community response to a crowdfunding campaign by the Friends group of local volunteers. The Crowdfund London campaign gained 440 pledges, and won the backing of the Mayor of London, Lambeth Council and the Theatres Trust. It also gained high-profile endorsements from the creative community, including Baroness Benjamin DBE, DL, Simon Callow CBE, Lolita Chakrabarti, Catherine Russell, and Sir Mark Rylance.
To deliver this project FEI have teamed up with theatre architects Aedas Arts Team, cost and programme consultants Pulse Consult, and creative industry economists Nordicity. They will look at different options for the future of the Grade II listed building as an arts and cultural centre, and then set out a robust and compelling case to decision-makers and interested parties to come on-board.
The report will be completed in December 2020, and will move the Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre a step closer to realising their plans to bring back to life the ‘sleeping beauty’, setting the scene for detailed engagement with potential partners in 2021.