Our artistic director Harry Denford joined us after a number of years directing at regional theatres and has over 15 years experience in large scale theatre tours including directing a short season at London's Rose Theatre. He is also the artistic director for 'Shakespeare in The Park' which is a major large scale outside touring company, and co founder of 'Practical Productions' which has had professional productions produced at over 180 UK theatres in the last 7 years. He spent many years as a stand up comic headlining at major comedy clubs around the UK such as 'Jongleurs' and is the head of 'The London Comedy Course' which trains about 300 stand up comics per year.
Our artistic policy means that we don't take every production who wishes to hire the venue, which often surprises producers wishing to stage productions here. For some, we will do a split if we feel the production is of interest to us and we could develop it for regional and larger theatre tours.
Harry has amazing creative flair with the unusual (for a creative) grounding and level headiness to make commercial decisions in producing plays which make money. He started off putting on plays in London Fringe theatres and quickly progressed to major regionals. He quickly realised that often theatre companies make little money in fringe theatre and hence why he made the decision to have the venue hired from £495 per week, so that we can then pick the best from all those who apply.
We are less inclined to be interested in experimental theatre, youth based and community theatre and more likely to be interested in established yet rarely performed plays such as Ibson, Checkov and more modern works such as Godber etc. We are great fans of the Brechtian style and our space lends itself well for this performance type.
We also have a great interest in new writing suitable for our audiences and again look at productions which may be suitable to transfer to regionals with our help. Harry has worked with plays at over 140 regional venues in the UK so knows this market well. We however have a set criteria for new writing which we list below.
To give you some idea of the type of productions we are more likely to want, just think of the average regional theatre goer in somewhere like Guildford. Would they more likely go to a productions about the life of Dr Samual Johnson or a hard hitting community based piece on teenage drug usage. The second may be more worthy, but on a commercial basis, the first will put more bums on seats in such a venue.
We receive no grants or public funds, so always look at the commercial aspect of the plays we produce which means us getting the best audiences for you.
Our regular audiences are mostly professionals or retired and we find come from Greenwich, Blackheath, Brockley, Lewisham and the Telegraph Hill Area of New Cross and are in the mid 20's to 60's age range. We also try and do at least 3 plays per year, not in English and this attracts a wider audience of both native speakers and those interested in the culture of that country. So far we have programmed Russian, French, Italian and German productions.
WHY DID YOU REFUSE MY PRODUCTION /PLAY EVEN WHEN I JUST WANT TO HIRE THE VENUE?
We are getting well known locally for the high standards of our productions, both in house and by visiting companies. All it takes is one bad production / under rehearsed or badly directed piece for us to lose audience members. Our artistic policy is clear to the type of productions we are more likely accept and the type of companies performing them.
We ask a number of questions to a company wishing to hire the space which is designed to work out if the production is suitable for us and be of interest to our audiences.
The main types of productions we now always refuse are:
1. Vanity Plays - These are new plays written by, directed by and at the same time starring the writer. (stand up comedy is the exception and again even these must be by well known stand up circuit comedians.)
2. Plays aimed solely at schools or under 18's Many schools pre-plan their trips months in advance and have to follow health and safety guidelines and get permissions. Producers often work this out late and find that no schools attend because of the timescale. We will sometimes allow an extra daytime performance of a theatre production for schools to attend but charge a hire rate of £100 per performance on top of the standard weekly hire rates. We do not allow evening performances for groups of under 18's or school groups. We will accept a private hire where tickets are not advertised to the public for productions aimed at under 18's or the cast are under 18. However the charge per day will be £200 as we do not open our bar during such performances and this covers lost revenue. Any production involving under 16's in the production must get written permission from the child's local council.
4. Performances to raise funds for or to recruit to political or religious groups or to use the venue for meetings / talks for such groups. This includes plays where there is a Q&A session which we restrict unless talking about the artistic merits of the play. We do this to stop certain groups using the venue to force their views on a paying public. We allow subject matter to be discussed and plot lines in Q&A's. We also insist that the public are able to leave the venue before the Q&A session begins if they want to.
5. Interactive plays with workshops we limit this type of production as we have had problems in the past with 'life coaches' using it to sell expensive (thousands of pounds) self development courses. Also many visiting companies don't have the liability insurance required for such activities. We will allow dance demo's and certain drama based classes which we class as adult education and not public performance.
6. Plays that have already played in London within 12 months. We find that all the friends and family of these productions don't come twice, so often seats filled are down for such productions.
7. Production companies not based in London doing a new play using actors and crew not based in London. These shows are really hard to market as often the company can't do any of the local marketing or have local friends and family to support the production. (on some occasions we will consider such productions but would hire the venue at a higher rate which can be worked out on an individual basis).
8. Plays where age and type are not correctly cast. Again this is a sure way to annoy our regulars. Often drama students form theatre companies and give parts to fellow classmates, regardless if they are correctly cast age and type. ie a 20 year old King Lear. If a role requires a 60 year old lady, then cast someone who is around that age and not a young actress playing a older person. Only a few productions get away with mis-casting and also it is the main bug bear of reviewers who often report on that negitive side when witnessed in a production.
9. Concept or early stage ideas or plays without funding. This is the biggest area where we refuse a production, a company wants to produce a play which they haven't even written yet or are still looking for funding. We never accept a booking unless the actual play exists and also permission is granted to stage the play from the writer. We are also getting a number of companies who hire the theatre for castings and they haven't even written the play or decided where to stage it. To stop actors often wasting their time attending such auditions, we now have a policy to ask what stage the production is at before hiring the space for auditions.