Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:00 AM
London is the most visited city in the world, but there are still many parts of the capital that have yet to be discovered by tourists and Londoners alike. Cat Hughes will take you down London's less travelled paths to show you its secrets and some of the more unusual things to do in Ye Olde London Town:
Pop up theatre is the new way to experience the delights of the stage! And no, it's not a theatre-version of that children's favourite the pop up book. Pop up theatre is when a small theatre company 'pops-up' in some form of non theatre-like space, transforms it and puts on a show. There are currently two of these pop-up theatre companies putting on shows in London.
Theatre Delicatessen is currently performing "A Doll's House", by Ibsen, in the old offices of Uzbekistan airways, just behind Selfridges. "A Doll's House" is thought to be the first true feminist play; it focuses on Nora Helmer, who has it all: A happy home, a beautiful family, and a husband who adores her. But she has a secret which forces her to face up to the truth of her own feelings. With it being a feminist play, all the male characters are played by women, making it an all female cast. Margret-Ann Bain, who played Nora's husband Torvald, was magnificent, I sometimes forget she was a woman and not man.
Not ever having gone to a pop up theatre, I didn't know what to expect. When I arrived at Picton Place, the Victorian building of the old Uzbekistan airways offices had certainly seen better days, but its faded grandeur added to the effect.
As my friend and I climbed the stairs to the first floor, where the stage and bar are located, we were stopped by a man in a brown pinstriped suit asking if we wanted to buy a moustache or a tie. Confused, we declined and carried on to the bar, only to be stopped by another guy saying, 'Only men allowed! But if you come in here disguised as a man I wont stop you.'
So my friend and I turned around and went back to the guy in the brown suit and for a smile received a fake moustache on a lolly stick. Holding it up to my upper lip the 'bouncer' let us in. You also have to 'look like a man' to be served at the bar. I loved the bar, with its dark red paint and kegs for seats, with Union Jack cushions for comfort, and the stage was more like a runway than a traditional stage, with the seats arranged along the length on it on both sides.
Theatre Delicatessen had used the space well, and has made going to the theatre a new and fun experience.
The second pop up theatre also displaying their artistic talent is Aya Theatre, who are performing Peter Handke's "Kaspar", a heavy post-modernist play that is structured around the historical figure of Kaspar Hauser, and is a 'meditation' on the corrosive aspect of everyday language.
The play is performed in a railway arch near Southwark, which was given to them by Network Rail. Both Theatre Delicatessen and Aya Theatre have been donated the spaces, with Picton Place donated by Great Portland Estates – it's a win-win situation for both parties. The companies get reduced rates for leasing out their empty spaces and the artists have somewhere to perform.
The railway arch has been renovated into office space and is somewhat of a soulless place, which works perfectly with the play. The stage is more conventional than Theatre Delicatessen's runway, though there is nothing conventional about the production itself. The set and area has been made to look chaotic, mimicking the language of the play, and the bar upstairs consists of cushions and stools huddled around three bare light bulbs. The play is thought provoking and heavy – I was exhausted by the end of it!
Both productions give a different experience and the best bit of all is it's affordable – Theatre Delicatessen charges Â£12 per ticket and Aya Theatre just Â£10, which is perfect if you are visiting London on a tight budget.
"A Doll's House" runs from January 5th to February 5th 2011, and "Kaspar" runs from January 12th to February 6th 2011.
By Cat Hughes
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