Rescued BAC Teams up for Punchdrunk's MasqueDate: 26 March 2007
After facing closure earlier this year (See News, 19 Jan 2007), the board of Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) has now come to an arrangement with Wandsworth Borough Council (WBC) to save the south London Fringe powerhouse. BAC announced its building preservation plans today and also confirmed that it will be co-producing the autumn premiere of The Masque of the Red Death with site-specific theatre company Punchdrunk, whose award-winning promenade production of Faust finishes its extended season at an abandoned warehouse in Wapping on 31 March (See The Goss, 20 Mar 2007).
Managers at BAC were told in January that Wandsworth Borough Council (WBC) would cut the grant to the theatre – usually £100,000 – to nothing, and charge the organisation over £270,000 annually in rent and running costs from May 2007. Following public outcry, the council has now accepted a proposal from BAC for a lease extension until March 2008, while the venue sets up a Building Preservation Trust with the aim of taking over the building on a long lease. The council has also offered BAC funding of up to £85,000 per year for Young People’s Theatre work, adding to the theatre’s Arts Council England subsidy, which currently stands at £506,800 for 2007/8.
Punchdrunk’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1842 short story, The Masque of the Red Death, will play at BAC from 3 to 27 October 2007 (previews from 17 September). In the piece, Prince Prospero and a thousand other nobles have sought refuge in a luxurious walled abbey to escape a terrible plague sweeping the land. But when the prince holds a masquerade ball to entertain the abbey’s inhabitants, a guest wearing a mask depicting a Red Death victim surprises them all.
BAC, which won the Best Community Contribution Award at Wandsworth Council’s Business Awards 2006, is one of the country’s leading arts organisations and attracts 220,000 visitors each year. The venue launched Jerry Springer - The Opera, and has helped develop the careers of a range of performers and companies, including French & Saunders, Cheek by Jowl, Complicite, Kneehigh Theatre, the League of Gentlemen, Faulty Optic, DV8 and the Right Size.
The co-production with Punchdrunk is BAC’s first Playground Project and part of a longer term plan for BAC to develop its building. Artistic directors Felix Barrett (of Punchdrunk) and David Jubb (BAC) will work with architect Steve Tompkins to develop new ways of using the building for artists and audiences. The theatre is planning one of these projects over each of the next three years. Each project is designed to create a relationship between artist, architect and audience to explore and reveal different parts of the building.
Punchdrunk’s work has previously been seen at BAC with Scratch night commissions of their shows The Yellow Wallpaper and The Quest of a Wave. Founded in 2000, Punchdrunk’s 2005’s promenade staging of Romeo and Juliet in a disused factory attracted the attention of Tom Morris, former BAC director and now an associate director at the National Theatre, which subsequently supported the Faust season (See News, 21 Jul 2006). Faust won this year’s Critics’ Circle award for Best Design and earned the company an Outstanding Newcomer nomination in the Evening Standard Awards.
- by Caroline Ansdell