Town Hall’s theatre of the absurd to stage some real drama

Having closed down its original venue and with its alternative venue temporarily shut for refurbishment, Croydon Council has had to turn over the Town Hall chamber this weekend to the Warehouse Theatre for it to be able to stage its 30th International Playwriting Festival.

Which should make a pleasant change from the chamber staging its usual theatre of the absurd.

The two-day festival also includes an interview with veteran playwright Bernard Kops on Sunday evening.

From theatre of the absurd, to new theatre: Croydon's council chamber

A new stage: Croydon’s council chamber

The withdrawal of its council grant by the then Tory administration in 2012 precipitated the closure of the Warehouse Theatre, which had developed a worldwide reputation for exciting new productions in its studio theatre in an old warehouse on the site alongside East Croydon Station where Ruskin Square is rapidly taking shape today.

But Ted Craig, the theatre’s determined director, has continued his hard work with the playwriting festival, and 2016 has attracted entries from the widest international spread of countries in the event’s history.

Justing finding a suitable space to perform the leading entries was a unresolvable conundrum, following the closure for £30 million refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls, the playwriting festival’s erstwhile home since 2013.

Timothy Godfrey, Labour’s cabinet member for arts, has stepped in and helped arrange for Croydon’s grand Victorian-built Town Hall chamber to be turned into a performance space for the event.

Bernard Kops: guest at the International Playwriting Festival

Bernard Kops: guest at the International Playwriting Festival

Plays and readings from other leading entries will be performed on Saturday and Sunday, with the Brit School taking to the stage for two pieces from its own playwriting season (at 5pm on both days).

And on Sunday evening, veteran playwright Kops is the special guest, to be interviewed about his life and works on “stage” by Jeremy Kingston, the former Times theatre critic.

The selected plays for 2016 are:

Shadowed by Tony Zeane (from Sydney, Australia), and directed by Ted Craig.
Cold Calling, by Doc Watson (Bath), directed by Patrick Sandford of Nuffiels Theatre, Southampton. And,
Once Around The Sun by Judy Upton (Shoreham-by-Sea), directed by film director Stephen Fingleton.

Shortlisted plays from Lebanon, Japan and Australia will also feature among the readings.

Tickets are £6 for one session, £10 for a day ticket, or £18 for the weekend and are available by clicking here.

There remains only small hope that the council will do the right thing and help to provide the Warehouse Theatre with a new, permanent home so that it can resume its work in encouraging new drama. It might even form an important element of what the culture-allergic council is insisting on trying to brand as the “Cultural Quarter”. Stanhope, the developers of the Ruskin Square site, had earmarked a substantial sum for the “New Warehouse Theatre” to be included within their development.

Not unreasonably, the developers just expect the council to hand back the grant provided for the purpose – amounting to £3 million, which uncannily is exactly the same amount handed over as a loan to seed-fund Boozepark to set up their venue on a site adjacent to where the Warehouse once stood.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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