Newly revamped Arcola Theatre is bringing best of theatre to East End
PUBLISHED: 13:20 12 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:55 12 April 2013
Walking into the Arcola Theatre is like stepping into an über-cool hotel in Berlin or New York.
The high ceilings, exposed brickwork, minimalist decoration and futuristic toilets reflect Hackney’s wider regeneration and artistic vibe.
The theatre, which is located at a former factory on Ashwin Street, Dalston, is a long way from its humble beginnings in Arcola Street where it started out and derived its name in 2000.
Now it has a prime location nestled between Dalston Junction and Dalston Kingsland Overground stations which link it to west, north and south London.
It also has three large cavernous and airy floors with two studio spaces, two rehearsal rooms, a large café bar and an energy research and development centre, whereas its former bijou home only had two performance spaces and a small bar.
Although it opened its doors to the public last October, it is still being completed brick by brick – something that general manager Jamie Arden says allows for a more unique result.
As well as its size, the theatre’s vision has also expanded. It is twinned with theatres in Coventry and Istanbul and collaborating with international theatre companies like Punchdrunk.
At the end of last year, they played host to Broadway musical Sweet Smell of Success, which won seven Tony awards and was directed by Olivier award-winning director David Bamber. “We are always surprising,” says Jamie.
Despite this, the theatre is firmly rooted in east London – and was voted Most Welcoming Theatre in East London by the public at the Offies award.
It continues to do a range of outreach projects catering for all sections of the community. This includes a youth theatre group, a budding 16 to 24 directors group and a 60 plus theatre group – four of whom appeared in an in-house production of Platonov.
It also has a Turkish and Kurdish speaking theatre company called Ala Turka which performs every year in English and Turkish.
Jamie said: “We want to be recognised for our work. We want to make some wonderful performances here. We want to produce the best theatre we can do. Discovering new stars and new voices is something that Arcola has done very well.”
Current performances include a play about the shooting of three IRA terrorists in Gibraltar by media lawyer and first-time playwright Alastair Brett which was co-written with experienced playwright Sian Evans, along with an adaption of Moby Dick written by film and theatre actor Sebastian Armesto and produced by theatre company simple8.
Arcola has strived to keep performances affordable. One of its newest initiatives is the Arcola Passport which offers five plays for £50 – a saving of £40 off full-price tickets – and gives a 10 per cent bar discount.
Jamie added: “We are trying to make it as accessible as possible. On a Tuesday you can pay what you like to see a show.”
The Arcola is also bidding to become the world’s first carbon neutral theatre – some fixtures have been made from recycled materials from places such as the Olympic Park, there are eco-friendly toilets and solar panels and the beer, cola and food served there is locally produced. The toilets, which use waste water from the sinks to flush, have lead to a 33 per cent reduction in water consumption.
Looking forward, Jamie added: “We want to get on with the job and get the building work finished and get people in to enjoy the shows.”