This Friday (1 Jun) the team at the multi award-winning Above The Stag enter a thrilling new stage of the their story, as the UK’s only full time LGBT+ theatre company moves into its beautiful new home on Albert Embankment over the road from the MI6 building. Dave Cross had a catch up from Artistic Director Peter Bull about the new space and the first play to be staged, the 25th anniversary production of Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey.
Hi Peter, how is the new venue looking and will you be ready to open on Friday?
The space is looking fantastic. The main theatre has been handed over to us and we are currently in technical rehearsals for Beautiful Thing. Our builders are busy putting the finishing touches on the bar and other public areas ready for Friday’s opening.
Can you talk us through the main differences between this new space and the site on Miles Street?
The floor space is over three times bigger than our old home. We now have a 110-seat main theatre and an 80-seat studio theatre, which alone is bigger than our old theatre. The venue has a much bigger bar and state-of-the-art backstage facilities.
The main theatre has a much bigger and deeper stage, what difference will that make to you and the shows you do?
We will be able to mount bigger productions and have much larger sets. We have always been known for our high production values, but were restricted by the shallow depth of the stage.
What kind of thing will you be doing in the smaller workshop space?
The studio theatre is where we will be producing edgier, riskier work that we haven’t been able to take a financial risk on previously. Plays that might not fill the main house, although we do have the option to transfer successful ones to the main stage. Our first production in the studio is a lesbian comedy, which we open for Pride.
Will you be actively looking for people to work with in that space?
We are always looking for new work for both spaces.
Why did you choose Beautiful Thing for the first production in the new main theatre?
I’ve wanted to do Beautiful Thing for a long time. This is the 25th anniversary of the play, so what more of an iconic piece to open our new theatre.
What can you tell us about the show after that, Grindr The Opera?
Every year we do a big fun musical over the summer, and this year we finally have a theatre big enough for Grindr The Opera. Written by an American, Erik Ransom, it really is an opera, completely sung through. It explores the infamous app, follows several men’s relationships and it has a glorious score mixing classical with contemporary pop. It’s also filthy!
And what is coming up after that?
The main house sees a new production of E.M. Forster’s Maurice, followed by our panto, Mother Goose Cracks One Out. In the studio we have Ronnie Larsen’s comedy Happy Ending, followed by a lesbian play and a psychological gay drama.