New arts festival launched in Greenwich

In recent years Greenwich has developed an enviable reputation for its range of festivals. From long established events like the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival or our own annual children’s theatre festival, to newer additions like the borough’s Comedy or Book festivals, Greenwich has become a destination for these short, ambitious artistic celebrations.

Festivals are an interesting model for a programmer like me. At Greenwich Theatre we programme shows all year round, so in many ways a festival is just a snapshot of what we do distilled into a short period of time, but the idea of a festival does encourage audiences to behave differently. They might be led to attend a number of events instead of just one, maybe several on the same day, or maybe to experiment and attend events they might not normally choose.

Whatever the additional appeal offered by the festival template, thanks to funding support from the Peter Harris Trust a new festival will be added to the borough’s annual line-up this autumn – Greenwich Performs.

Unlike the many other festivals which focus on a single art-form, the new initiative encompasses music, dance, comedy, literature and poetry, and at its heart it features a fortnight of high quality performance at Greenwich Theatre.

The theatre programme starts with a one-night visit to Greenwich for junior doctor turned performer Adam Kay, followed by a week long run of Changeling Theatre’s fast paced version of Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure. Our new studio will play host to more experimental work, led by Clown Funeral’s Things We Chose To Save. Set in a very near future, where the technology exists to record, store and play memories, the show follows a memory editor at work, and a young woman on the verge of selling her own memory.

Dance features in our programme too with the return of Chantry Dance and their ballet adaptation of one of the greatest gothic novels ever, Dracula.

Family theatre is set to include not one but too high profile children’s book adaptations – How To Hide A Lion, adapted from the book by Helen Stephens about a little girl trying to protect an escaped lion from the local townsfolk, and Mischief and Mystery in Moomin Valley, telling the story of a year in the lives of the Moomins.

The most exciting event for us at the theatre is our own revival of Michael Frayn’s rarely performed comedy, Here. Frayn is well known for plays like Noises Off and Copenhagen, and novels like Spies and Headlong, but this is a far lesser known play, a comedy about a young couple setting up home together for the first time. Full of the challenges and pitfalls of sharing a very small living space for the first time, the play was first produced at the Donmar Warehouse in London, and now we are set to produce our own version of the play for just five special performances.

I guess for us, to use a festival vocabulary, Michael Frayn’s Here is the headline event in Greenwich Performs – so grab a ticket, then choose from the many other events lined up and decide what you would like to see.

James Haddrell is the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre

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