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GREENWICH THEATRE TO LAUNCH THREE NATIONAL TOURS WITH THE GIFT OF TECHNICAL SUPPORT
A major and often crippling expense is being removed by Greenwich Theatre for three companies who will each start a UK tour in the South London venue this autumn.
A new production of Shakespeare's The Tempest by Bilimankhwe Arts, Stolen by The Devil’s Violin and Dust by Elusive Circus will all hold crucial technical rehearsals at the theatre free of charge.
“Technical rehearsals are a hugely expensive endeavour for a company,” said James Haddrell, the theatre’s artistic and executive director. “With most shows the model is to rehearse for three or four weeks and then spend up to a week in technical rehearsal.
“That has to be done in a theatre. You can complete the early stages of a rehearsal in a hall or even someone’s lounge, but this has to be in an equipped theatre. That means the theatre giving up several days of potential income from ticket sales, so it’s very difficult for companies to find space for that important part of their project.
“We won’t be charging the three companies at all. We’ve talked a lot about the work we do with emerging companies and now with two spaces - the main house and the studio - we can offer even more companies the chance to launch their shows here before taking off around the country.”
Free technical rehearsals time is something the companies can use when applying for funding. “Having secured a financial commitment from Greenwich Theatre, companies are in a stronger position to secure additional support,” said James. “Knowing that we have faith in the artistic merits of the companies helps them in a very practical way.
“The tours are fine, everyone wants the shows, but the companies need that crucial period at the beginning, working technically with us and having a short run here before heading off on their tour - so Greenwich Theatre will be the first place to see Dust on 24 August, The Tempest from 27-30 September and Stolen in the studio from October 4-7, with all three tours becoming financially viable through the removal of those technical costs and our audience getting the chance to see the shows first.”
Oliver Wilson-Dickson, who plays violin and viola in Stolen, said: “We took our previous show to Greenwich as a one-nighter last year and were delighted when they showed such enthusiasm about having us back.
“Most of our work is touring and playing one or two nights so to be able to start with a four-night run is perfect for us, giving us the chance to get comfortable with the show without constantly changing the variables of a new venue every night.
“We will also be able to get into the space and tech much earlier than usual as part of our agreement with the theatre, which is a great chance to iron out any issues with the lighting cues, etc.
“There are a few venues that go that extra mile in their support. Not only were Greenwich Theatre one of the first to get back to us but also they offered to pay us towards the development of the work as well as for the performance. This is a great help with cash flow at a time when we are spending rather than earning money but also that extra level of commitment from an outside partner adds weight to funding applications. Greenwich Theatre work with companies in such a supportive way and it has been a real boost for The Devil’s Violin.”
The company, based between Bristol and Wales, has toured nationally for 10 years but have struggled to persuade national newspapers to review them. “Their argument has been that they can’t make our one London date and would only review runs rather than one-nighters, even if we’re on tour,” said writer Daniel Morden.
“A few years ago we investigated booking a London venue, purely to invite reviewers, but the cost was ridiculous. This time, thanks to Greenwich Theatre, we have a run in a London venue.”
Tamzen Moulding of Elusive Circus said "The inspiration for Dust came from the imagery in Erin Morgansterns book, The Night Circus, and from Tim Burton films and Neil Gaiman books - that cute scary element is present in Dust. The show now has its own unique story, music and blend of movement, puppetry and circus.
“Technical rehearsals are extremely important for the quality of the show - it is where all the spacing for the performers is set and the lighting designer and technician have time to work. The lighting for Dust is key as we are inviting an audience onstage into our world.”
Bilimankhwe Arts’ is unlikely to resemble any production of a Shakespeare play staged at Greenwich Theatre before. This pared-down, intense, urban production of Shakespeare’s last play features the stunning contemporary African dance choreography of Shyne Phiri and brings together artists from Africa and Europe, using the best from both continents to both entertain and move the audience.
Haddrell continued, “With a project bringing together performers from two different continents it is essential to have a base to finalise the technical aspects of what is a hugely ambitious show. We are proud to be able to support Bilimankhwe Arts as they prepare for their national tour.”
* Dust, 24 August (main house – audience on stage)
* The Tempest, 27-30 September (main house)
* Stolen, 5-8 October (studio)
For more about the shows and ticket prices go to greenwichtheatre.org.uk.