The show is Blu & the Magic Web, a new fairy-tale adventure, written by Truestory artistic director Gary Sefton, who also directs the show and will be appearing as the spider.
Once upon a time, there was a village: a village hidden by a wood covered with cobwebs, a village where all the children have disappeared – all, that is, except Blu…
Performances run from December 9-31 with two or three shows a day. Tickets from £15-£22.50 are available from www.attenboroughcentre.com.
It sees the company returning strongly and on a new footing post-pandemic, as producer James Turnbull explains: “The pandemic came off the back of 2019 where we had our biggest season. For five years we were using our abandoned church at The Spire and we created our own venue. We did Frankenstein and A Christmas Carol in 2019. The idea was that it’s quite an intimate space, 220 seats and we didn’t want to charge too much. We did a lot of performances for Frankenstein and for A Christmas Carol. We did 38 shows each and they nearly all sold out. We had 11,000 people come to our unknown church in Brighton, and it was a really, really exciting time. And we built our audiences on their own terms. There were a lot of people coming to our shows who would never go to the theatre. It was a very relaxed casual crowd and we’re really proud of the community that we had. And then the pandemic hit.”
Last Christmas they managed to do a one-man Christmas Carol with Gary doing everything and just delivered by a team of four: “We usually got 220 people in there and we could only get 49 people socially distanced but it worked and we got five-star reviews. Financially it covered its costs. We didn’t make any money out of it but it was really important to connect with our audiences.
“The pandemic was frustrating watching the cultural side and forgetting that what theatres do is really, really important, the fact that we can come together. There was a real deficit of performances. The cultural money was fantastic for the venues but there was a real drought of shows for audiences, particularly new shows. It’s reasonable that venues are now rolling all out all the old shows but we have gone the other way with a new show. It is either daft or genius. We can’t quite work out it which! The history of The Spire is that they didn’t know whether they were going to continue and so we have made a move and that is good for us. The Attenborough Centre is a bigger space. We hope it’s a permanent move. It depends on whether people come to this show! But it gives us a real opportunity to work in a bigger space. We usually make quite site-specific shows for the church but this allows us to design something that is a bit more tourable and we’re hoping that we will be out able to get out there. So this move is really the next natural step for the company to take.” They have also moved on from working on a profit-share basis to paying union rates: “It is about changing our attitude from being a punky little company to potentially playing with the bigger touring companies. I think it comes because we have something to say.”
It also comes at a time when James believes audiences are changing: “There’s something really exciting happening with audiences. There has been a big gap and we have got to be wary that people who used to go to the theatre three times a year didn’t manage that last year and they might get out of the habit. You should never take your audiences for granted. But there is a young audience that is untapped. They’ve had their education ruined for the last couple of years and they need some opportunities. We are so lucky to be a really young company that is full of energy and that makes things really exciting for us.”