No annual review, and there are many around this time, can start in any other way than by acknowledging that 2016 has been a difficult, traumatic, confusing and frightening year. We’re exhausted from picking ourselves up off the floor after every disaster, tragedy, beguiling decision or the loss of yet another hero/entertainer/role model. Like many arts organisations, the Space has suffered from cuts to our funding or charitable relief, but pick ourselves up again we do, resolving to work harder, be stronger and bring people together more often. For when we get to work with such brilliant, creative and talented people, it becomes easier to put our troubles to the backs of our minds and imagine brighter days ahead. So, this piece will focus on celebrating our achievements and landmarks over the last 12 months, whilst looking forward to what’s in store for 2017.
Rachael Claye’s debut play was the subject of an Arts Council funded Research and Development project in 2014/15 so the full production scheduled for January 2016, was hotly anticipated. The very early days of the year were spent helping Faye Bradley to construct the 5 storey lighthouse that used the full height of the venue. ‘Truly compelling’ performances from Rafe Beckley as Nikolas and Annabel Smith as Rose, delighted audiences and critics alike. Expertly supported by Director, Danielle McIlven, Sound Designer/Stage Manager, Keri Chesser and Lighting Designer, Anna Sbokou, it was a glorious start to the year and prompted one reviewer to describe the Space as ‘one of the most exciting fringe venues in London.’ If you want to read more about the Lighthouse’s success, click here.¬†Annabel would¬†reprise her role as Rose at our Space20 event later in the year, whilst also performing in Space Productions’ MANIFESTO. An immensely talented individual with a future as bright as the sparkle in her eyes, it gives us great pleasure to name Annabel Smith as the Space’s Performer of the Year. And you can catch Annabel in 2017’s One Festival…
One Festival 2016
Shunted from its usual January slot by the Lighthouse, the 2016 One Festival ran for two weeks in February and featured 19 solo performances. It seems wrong to pick out one piece from a festival designed to bring solo artists together, the quality of performance and courage shown by those involved was as consistently strong as ever. ¬† Special mention deservedly goes¬†to Troll, written by Isabel Dixon and directed by Katherine Timms, which has been chosen as our¬†Play of the Year. Performed by Andy Gourlay, the piece ‘beautifully showcases the dangers of the internet alongside the pitfalls of adolescence’. Andy picks up another accolade as our Volunteer of the Year, we’re extremely grateful for all the support he’s given us and the cheerfulness with which he mucks in wherever required! Two pieces written during¬†29 Plays Later also featured, with two more of them being selected for 2017’s One Festival.
29 Plays Later
Following the success of 2015’s 28 Plays Later, the leap year meant we could make the February write-a-play-a-day¬†challenge that little bit harder. In total 190 playwrights started and 4,101 plays were written! You can read more stats from 2016’s challenge here and find out how to sign up for 2017 here. Our extreme thanks go to Literary Manager, Sebastian Rex, who handled 5,649 e-mails whilst managing the challenge!
The Lighthouse was the most attended production of the year, it also had the most performances! The highest total box office was achieved by the only other show in the year to run for three weeks – Ottisdotter‘s revival of Lessing’s Emilia Galotti.
The highest average audience of the year (minimum of 5 performances) was Bric a Brac‘s biopic of smoker George Crozier, Ash. The show went on to perform at the Paris and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, we liked it so much, we booked it in to perform at the Roof Garden and it can be seen again at the Vaults Festival in 2017.
Amongst the many great shows this year, notable mentions go to Changing Face Collective‘s Love on the Dole, Buster Keaton at the Hollywood Canteen…as told by Orson Welles by Mike Carter, the prophetic Force of Trump by Sami Ibrahim¬†and the delightfully surreal Where the Hell is Bernard? by Haste Theatre. We give huge thanks to all the wonderful theatre companies and artists involved and our Visiting Company of the Year award goes to Music Box Theatre. Led by Writer/Composer, Laura Kaye Thomson, the company first came to our attention when Isabel scouted them at the Edinburgh Festival in 2015.¬†Poppies¬†was described by the Stage¬†as¬†“A rousing new musical with fine songs and winning¬†performances”.¬†The company were invited back to open the performances at our Space20 gala celebration in October.
We marked¬†the 20th anniversary of the Space in some style and with some wonderful special guests. Our patron, Sir Ian McKellen, delighted the full house with his recollections of the early days of the Space and the efforts of our founder, Robert Richardson. James Seager from Les Enfants Terribles¬†and Louise Jameson also spoke glowingly about the Space. Louise was joined on stage by her writing partner, Nigel Fairs, as they performed extracts of their work. The pair return to the Space in 2017 with Nigel’s newest play, Ebeneezer and Me.¬†The evening also featured some extracts from the Space Productions’ back catalogue, with pieces from plays such as the Graduate, Festen and Vernon God Little, performed by an ensemble of actors past and present.
We inducted 5 more people into our very own little hall of fame in 20 People Who Shaped the Space¬†– Isabel Dixon, Keri Chesser, Sebastian Rex and Danielle McIlven have already been mentioned in despatches – the final inductee, our current Chair, Pradeep Jeyaratnam-Joyner. There were other milestones achieved in the year, Artistic Director, Adam Hemming celebrated his 40th birthday whilst the Emerge Festival curated by C-12 Dance Theatre celebrated its 5th anniversary.¬†WorkSpace Productions performed 36 Cable Street, a new play written by Tim Blackwell, marking 80 years since the Battle of Cable Street.
Our community theatre company also celebrated Space20 with a special event bringing together our youth groups and adult group. In 2017, the company will come together again at the end of a new Sharing Stories project, where our members will create short plays inspired by the lives of local residents. Samantha Spurgin ended her run as Lead Tutor for our youth groups with an epic new version of the Jungle Book performed in partnership with Embrace Dance. Guleraana Mir stepped up as Lead Tutor and joined us as Public Engagement Officer later in the year. Our¬†Director of the Year, Danielle McIlven took on the challenge of adapting three Greek plays in the Myths She-Told series that our adult group performed at the start of the Crossrail Place Roof Garden Summer Season. In addition to The Lighthouse and 36 Cable Street, Danielle directed MANIFESTO. for Space Productions in October.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Our second Summer at the open air performance space in Canary Wharf saw over 3,000 people attend free performances between May and September. Our Late and Early Bloom Festivals featured a host of local theatre, music, dance and spoken word performers, Half Moon Children’s Theatre provided four plays from their portfolio and the Grand Union Orchestra brought us Trading Roots. ¬†We hosted our first Shakespeare performances with Time Zone Theatre‘s Othello and Thick as Thieves‘ The Tempest, whilst other family shows included Tea Break Theatre‘s Bobbin and Metta Theatre‘s Blown Away. We hope¬†to bring you news of the 2017 Summer Roof Garden Season soon!
And speaking of 2017‚Ä¶
All of the events for our Spring Season are now up on the website, starting with our Season Launch on Friday 6th January. We’ve lined up more¬†great shows by wonderfully talented people and are delighted to be welcoming back Tom Ward, Matthew Lyon and Skin Deep Theatre¬†to the Space. We’re looking forward to sharing it with you!