Sunday, 31 January 2010

Theatre: 'The Distance' by the Particular Theatre Company

In our ongoing series on arts in the recession, we discussed the phenomenon of pub theatre and its potential to deliver productions of merit, to an audience beyond regular theatre goers, on a budget relying on little or no subsidy. I reviewed 'Forsaken' by the Particular Theatre Company who'd recently staged a three week run of a new piece of writing - together with before and after shorts of comedy and poetry - in the basement of The Hour Glass Inn in Exeter, ending with the wish that they'd extend the experiment to future shows.

My wish was their command and they are back with 'The Distance', a new play by Dorset writer Craig Norman, described as a poetic drama in which a married couple struggle to maintain fractured relationships with each other and their parents, in a world where land is precious and you don't know who you can trust. Featuring an accomplished professional cast and crew in an intimate space, the show should share many of the elements that made its predecessor a commercial and artistic success, but this time they've created their own seventy seat space - the Bike Shed Theatre just off Fore Street in Exeter, right in the centre of town. They are licensed for drink and have done a food deal with the nearby Flying Pig, maintaining the elements that make pub theatre a social night out.

Just as importantly, they've kept to their philosophy of exposing their audience to new work by encouraging us to stay on for 10 o'clock slots, one act plays by local writers that change every day or two. It's a win-win of a concept. The theatre ups its revenue by selling a few drinks while the punters wait for the stage to be reset. The audience gets an add-on to the experience if they want it. Playwrights and actors get a chance to try out new work in front of a paying crowd while the producers can gauge their reactions to new talent.

'The Distance' runs from 8th to 27th February and starts at 19.30. Tickets are available online at 10 pounds and if you're reading this on the day of posting and are quick off the mark you can still get them at the early bird price of a fiver. I'll be there for the preview and hope to add a short review below while there's still time for you to get seats for a night later in the run.

On Sundays 14th and 21st of February at 17.00 they are also hosting free evenings of comedy, music and poetry - Antidote/Anecdote - which sound a good way to end a winter weekend.

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