An Ambitious New Theatre for EssexDate: 6 October 2011
Did you know that there was a theatre in Braintree, and that it opened in 2009? I confess that – in spite of living near the Essex market town for the better part of 20 years and visiting it a couple of times a week – I did not. The Braintree Arts Theatre is on the Notley campus in a purpose-built building which also houses the sixth form college.
This has something of a reputation for drama, with students regularly going on to professional theatre training. The new theatre manager is Ash Pickard, who cut his technical and programming teeth at the Lincoln Drill Hall, and he has launched an ambitious programme of professional drama and comedy for autumn 2011 and early spring 2012. This began with An Evening with Gervase Phinn and includes new productions from touring companies such as Trestle, Rumpus, the Watermill Company, Icarus and Scene Productions.
Regular children’s shows, film screenings and comedy nights are also programmed. For the latter, the theatre is transformed into a cabaret-style space with tables and chairs. In straightforward playhouse mode, it seats around 300 people, facing a stage which is suitable for dance as well as drama and is also technically well equipped. It also offers a performing space for local companies and college performances.
Parking for up to 250 cars is on-site and there is a fully licensed café bar for evening performances. Pickard uses students as front-of-house staff (paid) and has initiated an apprenticeship scheme for those hoping to work in the technical side of the entertainment industry. Audiences take time to build, but a good start has been made and no-one can doubt the enthusiasm of all concerned.
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