Theatre can be an odd industry. In the evenings, theatres come alive with audiences arriving to collect tickets and fill bars and restaurants, actors preparing backstage, and then of course the performance on stage.
In the daytime, the vast majority of theatre buildings can be quiet, dark places, with only a small percentage of the building in use for the administration staff. This is something I have long worked against in Greenwich.
In our case, we spend most days searching for any available corner of the building to use for the range of activity that happens here. We have had companies rehearsing in corridors, performances in offices, props being painted in dressing rooms – and long may it continue.
We support a host of the country’s most exciting emerging theatre companies in Greenwich, so barely a day goes by without a number of companies of young or developing artists using the theatre. They might be rehearsing a new show, holding auditions, taking time to try out a new special effect or build a new set of props.
At the same time companies use the theatre for meetings, and the importance of that can’t be overlooked. As an emerging company if you need to meet a designer or a writer, or participate in an interview with a journalist, you most commonly have to meet in a coffee shop or in your own home, so we give companies the chance to step up and take meetings in a professional setting.
Most commonly, this support is provided to artists who have been working for a year or two to develop their work, but as we approach 2018 we are also announcing a new relationship with a company that has spent the past decade establishing its credentials – Lazarus Theatre Company, led by Greenwich-based artistic director Ricky Dukes.
I have been aware of Ricky’s work for some years, and he has been producing and directing hugely
ambitious productions of classic texts at some of the capital’s most respected fringe theatres. Regularly seen at the Brockley Jack, the Blue Elephant and the Tristan Bates Theatre in the West End, Lazarus are not wholly new to Greenwich.
In 2013, we welcomed the company with a mini-rep season comprised of a female-led adaptation of King Lear (long before the high profile production with Glenda Jackson at the Old Vic) and a new staging of Christopher Marlowe’s Dido Queen Of Carthage. Next year, that early programming relationship evolves as Lazarus become a resident company at Greenwich Theatre. That means the company will present work across each of the seasons at the theatre, they will have access to space to rehearse and develop their shows, and they will be welcomed in to use the building on a weekly basis to work on their company’s administration – all in all, they will have a theatre to call home.
The year-round relationship begins in January when the company will revive their acclaimed production of Marlowe’s Edward II, before turning their attention to a new staging of William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies in the spring. As the year unfolds we can expect a trademark production of a Shakespeare play, and there is a musical on the cards too.
While Lazarus are far more experienced than many of the young companies we support, the principle is the same. Greenwich Theatre is one of London’s finest Off-West End theatres, and as such represents a valuable resource for theatre companies who want to grow their craft.
Lazarus are long overdue a move up to the mid-scale, and we are proud to be able to offer that opportunity – and to guarantee our audiences a series of creative, memorable productions next year.
James Haddrell is the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre.