I'm eph_brinkley from London. I've been Qyping since 18-11-2009
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eph_brinkley's Qype profile
265 Camden High Street, London NW1 7BU
On a recent return to the Etcetera Theatre (I produced a show there in March) to see improvised comedy, I thought once more about the pros and cons of an above pub theatre.
The Oxford Arms is a fairly decent pub. Perhaps a little too heavy on the sports screens and bouncers on the doors, and a little light on anything bordering cultural, but it's fine. But sadly, it's probably the main contribution as to why one might not approve of The Etcetera. It's where the conflict comes in: the Etcetera rent the space about the Arms, and have made a great effort to deck it out with blackened walls, a perfectly acceptable rig and tiered seating. The lighting box is workable too. However, the sound from below in the pub, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, and the high rent charged by the pub, mean some viewing experiences can be really disturbed by noise and ticket prices are higher than they should be for a studio theatre putting on many acts that can't pull in numbers.
But on the plus side, the space is in fact excellent and intimate and used well, can provide some first rate theatre, both drama and comedy. The improvised sketch comedy, if I dare call it that, that I saw on Sunday (Scenes from Communal Living, 22/11/09, recurring every Sunday until 20/12/09) and Punchcut's stirring drama back in March both optimised the proximity of audience to performer and played upon the tenderness of the space.
So be selective! Look for shows here that are worth the pricey tickets (£10 or so) and will make use of closeness to give you something raw or engaging or sensitive or close-up. And maybe avoid the noisier nights of the week...
In the dark and cold from Old Street I pottered along into the wilds of that no-man's-land between Shoreditch and Hackney to find... The Sunbury Workshops! And that was when trepidation promptly turned to boyish excitement at the different workshops I peeped into, and the plethora of masks and tools and gadgets and gizmos that filled Simon's The Making Space.
See below for some of the basics as to what went down (in short: free food and drink - yum; free tuition and equipment for chaining - tough but rewarding; great company & a lovely ambience - delightful). My own personal impressions were sort of as follows...
It's easy to turn up and talk about something but it's much harder to do something crafty and feel like you're getting somewhere and potentially achieving with it. I think that's where Simon comes into the fore as a great instructor - there was a delicate balance between encouragement and cajoling and he urged all of us on with the relaxed atmosphere and, for lack of a better phrase, creative ambience of the place. He was really open and happy to discuss everything, and he let me try on his chainmail, which was, of course, totally awesome!
Very enjoyable, highly recommended, such a fun and rewarding way to spend an evening.