- Date: 17 April 2014
- Area: London
The Lyric Hammersmith's Secret Theatre. Credit: Helen Maybanks
The Lyric Hammersmith is to take its Secret Theatre Company on a tour of regional theatres, thanks to support from Arts Council England, sharing their experiences of an innovative approach to theatre production and helping to develop new ways of working for repertory theatres.
The Secret Theatre Company endeavour to offer audiences the chance to experience theatre in entirely new ways: whether it's through their radical approach to old texts, their challenges to issues of diversity on stage or by literally taking audiences to unusual performance spaces.
In keeping with the 'secret' nature of the project, titles for each of the plays in the repertoire have been kept generic - Show 1 or Show 5 - in order to offer people the chance to attend the theatre without a preconceived view of what the show will be. However, as this project moves forward the Company will take a much more flexible approach and adapt to each of their tour venues, some titles will be revealed and others will remain secret.
Secret Theatre was initially conceived as a year-long project developed in response to renovation work being conducted at the Lyric, which limited access to many parts of the theatre. Rather than look to other venues during this period, the Lyric created the Secret Theatre Company. The aim was to bring together a 20-strong ensemble of young, diverse artists to create and perform work in whatever space was available within the venue - forming a secret theatre at the heart of the building.
The Secret Theatre Company has provided the Lyric Hammersmith with an opportunity to look at new and innovative ways of working for repertory theatre*, along with an exploration of how classic texts and new writing can be presented in fresh ways. Each performance has a diverse cast - including ethnic minority actors and disabled actors, as well as ensuring equal representation for men and women on stage.
The Exceptional award from Arts Council England will now enable the Lyric Hammersmith to share its learnings from Secret Theatre through a series of two week residencies at 10 organisations across England - starting in June 2014 at Northern Stage, Newcastle. Each residency will be tailored to the individual theatre's needs, but will always be underpinned with two key elements: Secret Theatre performances and a masterclass programme of talks and debates.
The Secret Theatre Company will also work with local schools throughout the tour, hosting workshops that will provide children and young people with the chance to see how an ensemble theatre company works
Commenting on the Exceptional Award from Arts Council England the Lyric's Artistic Director Sean Holmes said, 'This is an amazing vote of confidence from Arts Council England in a project that is risky, challenging and at times divisive. It is thrilling to imagine bringing this project to different parts of the country and the conversations that may be provoked in the process.'
Moira Sinclair, Executive Director, London and the South East, Arts Council England, said: 'The Secret Theatre is an exciting project that challenges the concept of traditional performance space, taking artists and audiences into unusual places. The tour will help this young, diverse ensemble to share their experience of the Secret Theatre with artists, organisations, schools and colleges across England, provoking debate around how these new approaches can engage audiences and artists. We are delighted to be supporting Lyric Theatre Hammersmith as it expands its work beyond London and develops a catalyst for artistic excitement and change.'
* Repertory Theatre is a system of play production in which a resident acting company rehearses a collection of plays and performs them in rotation or alternation. Historically in the UK one play would be performed whilst at the same time the next one was being rehearsed.