Arcola Theatre, Dalston

Yesterday, Lady Fox and I met up with a few friends to take advantage of the Arcola’s ‘pay what you can tuesday’ initiative. The Arcola is a fringe venue, committed to community integration and outreach projects, ecological sustainability, and, of course, some good-old-fashioned great theatre. The theatre is housed in a converted paint factory, which gives the space a really interesting feel: sparse and rustic, yet somehow cosy and inviting at the same time. It’s not wheelchair friendly – just getting through the door can be a challenge in itself – which is something I think they should address if they are going to prove their integrability towards equal opportunities. However, their track record of providing creative opportunities for the local community, including youth theatre, dramatherapy for the over-60s and a ground-breaking theatre project promoting understanding between the Turkish and Kurdish communities in the area, has made the Arcola one of the most respected young theatres in the capital.

Every tuesday, the Arcola opens its doors to those on a budget, by providing a number of tickets on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. Basically, you can go and see world-class theatre for 50p (or a £1 in my case – I felt too guilty handing over 50p when I still had a £1.50 cup of tea in my hand). How brilliant is that? I admit I’m not much of a theatre buff; my knowledge only stretches as far as A-level drama. However, as I said in my last post, it’s good to take an interest in things, especially when the financial barriers have been lifted. On the other hand, Lady Fox and her friends have just completed a masters degree in applied drama (essentially using theatre as a form of social outreach), so this was right up their street. We got tickets to see Speechless, a play about a set of twins who become so entrenched in their own volatile world that they lose the ability to communicate with anyone but each other. It was quite a disturbing piece of theatre, outright distressing in some parts, and very impressive in terms of physicality and character development. The fact that it touched on a lot of issues, such as mental illness, racism and social disorder, made it both thought-provoking and very contemporary, despite being set in the early eighties.

Cheap tickets, exciting theatre and a decent cup of tea make the Arcola a must-visit for anyone living in London. Details can be found at http://www.arcolatheatre.com/index.php4, and if you want to make use of cheap tuesdays, you’ll need to be there for 6pm on the day to get in line for a ticket.

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