Issue date: Mon 12 December 2016
Any thoughts about Greenwich Theatre taking a break after the extended run of its record-breaking pantomime were dismissed by artistic and executive director James Haddrell as he launched a jam-packed new season at the theatre.
“A few years ago we might have considered a break after the panto but the theatre operates in a very different way these days and we’ll have just four days to remove the Peter Pan set, rebuild the stage and get everything ready for the spring season,” said James.
“With reductions in public funding we have had to find a new operating model. With funding down from 60 per cent of our annual income to just 10 per cent, the biggest way of raising funds is to fill our 400 seats with people seeing great shows. Two weeks without a show would be lost time we couldn’t get back or afford.”
The season includes two premieres – the UK premiere of the American rock musical Lizzie on the main stage and the world premiere of the moving Gazing At A Distant Star in the new studio – as well as an ambitious programme of visiting productions in both auditoria and family shows during half term.
“Casting for Lizzie has already been announced” said James, “and the show will feature Broadway star Eden Espinosa from Wicked, UK West End stars Jodie Jacobs and Bleu Woodward and Danish star of The Little Mermaid, Bjørg Gamst. The show comes to Greenwich directly after premiering in Denmark.”
Gazing At A Distant Star is directed by James himself following the studio launch success of Under My Thumb earlier this year. It tells the story of the missing and those they leave behind, their lives gently touching on each other.
Following on from the panto are Michael Morpurgo’s King Arthur, an epic tale of heroism, love and betrayal from the author of War Horse; children’s author David Almond’s Heaven Eyes about young people trying to find their way in the world; and, for very young children, a beautiful show called Chester Tuffnut about a character bringing excitement back to Woodland.
“The season kicks off on the main stage on January 14 with the amazing From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads, a touching and darkly funny show about an obsessive David Bowie fan,” said James, “and January ends with a fascinating show, They Built It. No One Came. It was inspired by a true story in the New York Times about a spiritualist commune that no one joined.”
Then, at the other end of the scale, there’s The Collector, a fantastic hard-hitting drama being revived at Greenwich for one week only about murder and betrayal in occupied Iraq, and the heartbreaking but inspiring Spillikin (A Love Story), featuring three actors and a robot. The latter tells the story of an Alzheimer’s sufferer whose late husband populated a robot’s memory banks with his own memories before he died, to give his wife a companion as she grew old.
“On first viewing it seems to be science fiction,” said James, “but given the levels that robotics and computing have reached, I suspect it’s not far from becoming a reality.
It’s set to be a highlight in what I think is one of the most diverse seasons we’ve ever presented at Greenwich, helped by having the studio space that’s already become a major part of a new era for us at the theatre.”