No place like home for Stokey's Tower Theatre Company
PUBLISHED: 10:34 13 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:34 13 May 2019
2018 will go down as one of the most important years in the history of The Tower Theatre Company.
It was during this year - in September, precisely - that the non-professional company moved in to its permanent new home in Northwold Road, Stoke Newington. The move came 15 years after they had left their previous long-term base at Canonbury Tower; the historic building after which the company is named.
After their purchase of Sunstone House was approved last February, the company renamed the building Tower Theatre and began renovations at the site which would eventually host their 18 full-scale productions each year.
"I think the big thing is: we've now got our own space that we can do what we like with, whereas before we had to hire theatres and rehearsal spaces," says John Chapman, an actor who joined the company in 2012.
"Personally, the biggest difference I have found is that there are three areas in the complex for us to rehearse in. We're no longer going to all sorts of weird and wonderful places in London - we are all in the same space, the personnel can interact, and there's a bar / communal area where we can meet up, swap notes and chew the fat during breaks."
Chapman is about to assume the role of Sir John Falstaff in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor, which starts just three days after the curtain comes down on another company production - Cecil Beaton's Gainsborough's Girls.
After the Merry Wives… completes its run in Stokey, the group will transfer to Paris for six shows at the open-air Jardin Shakespeare, in Bois de Boulogne. Very little time goes to waste here.
"There's always been a lot of touring going on (with the company) - the Paris thing is the most significant," explains Chapman.
"Tower Theatre Company has been going to Paris every year since 1992, where the brief is to do a Shakespeare play in English, with French subtitles.
"The Merry Wives of Windsor is a very English play. It's quite an interesting challenge for us to take it to be shown in France; when it was first mooted, we didn't even think we'd be part of Europe - but I won't go in to that!"
Chapman has appeared in 150 productions with different 'am-dram' groups, but he says The Tower Theatre Company has "taken the most professional approach" to their craft.
He says their take on Merry Wives… has been "shortened and tightened" and set in the 1950s, at a time when women's rights were gathering momentum.
"We're certainly encouraging the comedy side of it. It's going to be fast-moving and it's going to look good. There are only 11 performers which involves a lot of doubling up, and a lot of furiously-fast costume changes.
"You can enjoy the spectacle even if you think you won't understand the Shakesperean language. We are about concentrating on the fun element of it, rather than the serious content, but there is a serious underlying message."
The Merry Wives of Windsor is on at The Tower Theatre, N16 7HR between May 15 and 25. More details and tickets here.