Treading off the boards!
"I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space, whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged." - Peter Brook
More and more the 'act of theatre' is breaking free from the confines of conventional venues and making use of a more eclectic mix of spaces for creative teams to tell their tales. This is something that the Worcester Rep has been experimenting with for a number of years. The company has performed in churches, Elizabethan gardens, cathedrals, shopping plazas, and school halls, and has dealt with some tough performance conditions.
Some of the common issues with producing theatre in such diverse spaces includes audibility, sight-lines, backstage issues and of course, weather. Even indoors, the weather can play havoc with a performance. During a performance of Julius Caesar in Malvern Priory the actors (and audience) could see the words they spoke as the temperature was so cold that the steam from their breath accompanied every line! We lost a few members of the audience at the interval with that production, and I don't at all blame them for their decision. If I could have gone home...I would have done!
In our first production of the 2019-20 season we are experimenting with a new venue. The Huntingdon Hall is widely regarded as one of the best music and comedy venues in the West Midlands, and it's easy to see why. It's got a great atmosphere, fabulous acoustic, purpose built bar and easy access from the centre of the city. So, when putting together this season, the thought of being able to stage productions in the Huntingdon Hall seemed too good to be true. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. There are still challenges, but far fewer than the company would normally have to contend with. Audiability certainly won't be an issue, and neither will sight-lines. Add into the mix a newly built stage and an award-winning creative team and you've got a fairly special production on your hands.
The re-imagining of Huntingdon Hall as a professional theatrical venue is something that I am incredibly excited about and an ambitious start to a new artistic vision for the company. Nothing like this has ever happened in the space before. Do not miss it!
Blog posts, interviews and commentary by individuals do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Worcester Repertory Company.
Ben Humphrey is the Acting Artistic Director of the Worcester Repertory Company and Senior Creative and Learning Advisor to the National Trust for Scotland. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Associate Research Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Worcester and Patron of the Royal Air Force Theatrical Association.
He trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and founded the Young Rep, directing their inaugural production, Macbeth. This year he will be returning to the stage as both an actor and director in The Tempest and Snow White an the Seven Dwarves.
You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHumphreyUK