James Haddrell speaks on the difference between survival and failure in the theatre industry

As we emerge from the pandemic, theatre producers are all interrogating ticket sales more than ever before, trying to understand which shows are performing the best, which audiences are prepared to return most quickly, and which are still struggling despite the end of restrictions.

James Haddrell, artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre

Riding those waves successfully could mean the difference between survival and failure for a company or a venue in the year or so that lies ahead.

At Greenwich Theatre there is already a clear winner – family shows are outselling everything else several times over.

Last weekend, four performances of The Tiger Who Came To Tea played to packed houses, and we are expecting the same for forthcoming productions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar based on the book by Eric Carle, and perennial favourite We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, brought to the stage by the Little Angel Theatre.

I am also delighted to have confirmed a visit to Greenwich for a fantastic production of There’s A Rang-Tan In My Bedroom, again from the Little Angel.

The show was originally inspired by two Greenpeace campaign films, the first of which became an internet sensation in 2018 when supermarket chain Iceland was banned from using it as their Christmas television ad.

This beautiful stage adaptation encourages children to understand the issues involved, with Doc Brown and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man joining Emma Thompson in providing narration.

The biggest family seller of our year, our annual pantomime, is also already selling well beyond expectations.

With a hilarious new script by Anthony Spargo, who also returns as villain after a decade at Greenwich, this year we head to Sherwood Forest for a panto version of Robin Hood.

Having read an early version of the script, I know we are on course for a show that is as funny, as magical and as musical as ever.

With family theatre proving itself across the season, we have also just put a new show on sale for the summer – a madcap production of Treasure Island that I’ll be directing for the summer holidays.

Complete with all of everyone’s best known characters from the classic adventure story, the show sees Jim Hawkins escaping his humdrum life and setting off on a voyage on the high seas, in search of treasure and helped (or maybe not) by pirates.

However, with this version of the story devised by acclaimed theatre company Le Navet Bete this is unlike any Treasure Island you’ll have seen before.

With the parrot Alexa misunderstanding every instruction, a mermaid tempting Jim in the daftest of ways, a special appearance by Captain Birdseye and a host of other comedy diversions, this is one of the funniest family scripts I’ve read in a long time.

In September, we welcome Hither Green-based company Moon On A Stick with a show for the youngest theatregoers – Baby Bear – with versions for children aged as young as 18 months and up to three years old.

After such a difficult couple of years, it is heartening to see our audiences of the future, are back in theatres and rediscovering just how special live performance can be.


Picture: Bear Hunt. Picture: Little Angel Theatre




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