“Time Out made a good point when they mentioned improving theatre bars…theatres should be places you go simply to meet people, to hang out…and then maybe fall into some theatre along the way”.
So said a friend of mine over lunch today (no, I didn’t pause to write that all down, a little bit of blogging first person narrative license there). I rather love the idea of stumbling into a performance (or a performance stumbling into me) as might happen at Shunt, just as would frequent the wonderful cafe at the Arcola simply for the sake of being there if it didn’t take approximately two hours and a lot of hair pulling for me to actually get there. The BAC has not enough seats for the space but wonderful places to sink into arm chairs and hide whilst the Tricycle has incredibly cheap food served by gloriously eccentric men. The National‘s good for a meeting, or a quick sit down, but feels terribly, terribly corporate. And if the balcony at the Royal Court is an absolutely beautiful spot to waste some time in the sun then the prices of the bar would require me to extend my overdraft.
It is, I feel, the sense of community that my friend was getting at. Eating and drinking is inherently social after all (or at least it should be). And if we put performance into that community then what does both the performance and the community gain? People who wouldn’t normally see a performance? Or a performance that engages directly (and meaningfully) with its audience?
Though I hadn’t thought of it in such terms very early on in the planning of Reasons For Listing myself and Charlie decided that it was clear that it needed a non-traditional theatrical space. Maybe it was my love of coffee and cake but we soon struck upon the idea of cafe spaces…
There’s certainly the issue of space when we talk about theatres and their bars/ cafes. It’s a case of re-imagining and seeing entire buildings as a theatre – and not just an auditorium with a bar tacked on in order to swell the coffers during the interval. Why should performances only take place at 2.00pm and 7.30pm in an auditorium? It’s easy to pay lip service to the idea – hey let’s stick some music in the bar pre-show or some art on the walls – but it takes more imagination to embrace the concept. A 24 hour space where I can eat, drink, have a cup of coffee, take my laptop, hang out, meet people and stumble on performance (of all kinds) – that’s what I’d like to see.