Tag Archives: Performing Arts

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Albany

What makes a theatre special? More specifically, what makes the Albany theatre unique from all the others? We sat down with our Technical Manager, Ben Wallace, to find out. He helped devise a list of all the technical things that make us different, and arguably more interesting than other London theatres and arts centres.

Alexander Wolfe, Live at the Albany

Alexander Wolfe Live at the Albany

1) First off, the shape of our theatre.

Our main theatre is not your average rectangular theatre. It is a 16-sided polygon called a ‘hexadecagon.’ It is more often referred to as a theatre-in-the-round though. All of the theatre spaces and some of the rooms for hire at the Albany are irregular in shape, including our Red Room, Studio and Cafe.

2) Our main theatre has a hugely versatile lighting rig.

With 144 channels of dimming, there are a lot of options for creating the perfect lighting for any show or event taking place in our main theatre.

3) Enormously flexible seating.

Our main theatre has an extremely flexible capacity. It holds up to 550 people standing, 290 people in rows and 200 in cabaret style. There are two levels of seating and the chairs are free-moving and therefore can accommodate any arrangement needed; perfect again for most any type of performance.

The same can also be said of our Red Room and Studio – there is absolutely no fixed seating anywhere at the Albany.

4) The grid, where all the technical magic happens, is located straight above the entire theatre space.

CircusBitesBack (credit Polstar Photography)

Circus Bites Back in the theatre

This again offers flexibility and creative freedom for productions to arrange sets in whatever manner needed or desired.

5) Our main theatre can record 48 channels of audio from the stage.

In laymen’s terms, this means we can record music quite well. Speaking of which, English singer-songwriter Alexander Wolfe‘s Skeletons was recorded live here, have a listen:

 

Alexander Wolfe recording live

Alexander Wolfe recording live

6) As an added bonus, our theatre bar is actually located inside the theatre on the second level.

Having the bar so close is rather convenient for our audiences who then don’t have to cram themselves down corridors to grab a drink or snack during intervals, however it can be a slight hindrance during performances when bar staff cannot clean up. Oh well… you win some, you lose some.

The current Albany building was rebuilt in 1981 following a fire, making it a 33-year-old Deptford fixture that really takes the local community to heart. All of these unique technical bits allow us to put on a varied and diverse mix of programming for our neighbouring audience, which means Ben and the rest of our technical team never have to do the same thing twice.

We hope you love our vastly flexible and distinctive theatre as much as we do!

Cabaret performance in the cafe.

Cabaret performance in the cafe

For more information on room hires and performance hire, please visit our website.

Allison Gold, Marketing Assistant, The Albany

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New Blood at the National: What the Appointment of Rufus Norris means to the Albany

It has been a big week in the theatre world. Last Tuesday, the new Artistic Director of the National Theatre was announced – the biggest job in our industry. It felt like a football transfer window, the new Doctor Who, and Christmas morning rolled into one, and it ended months of speculation about which of the top contenders – including the likes of Kenneth Brannagh, the Young Vic’s David Lan and Hampstead Theatre’s Edward Hall – would take the top spot. Finally it was announced that the job will go to Rufus Norris, a popular choice amongst the theatre industry, who generally hold the acclaimed director of Festen, Cabaret and London Road in high regard.

The new appointment provides a good opportunity to reflect on the role of the National Theatre in the UK’s theatre landscape. There will inevitably be a huge amount of focus on the shows Rufus Norris chooses to programme; the playwrights he commissions and the celebrities he’s spotted dining with. But for me there is a more important concern for Rufus Norris’s incumbency.

Ten years ago, I was brought to the Albany as part of a programme led by the NT that invested in the Albany and worked with young people in Deptford and Lewisham, aiming to reinvigorate the Albany’s role as a catalyst for the development of local communities and the area’s regeneration, and discovering what the role of a venue like the Albany could look like in the 21st century.

The enterprise was part of The Art of Regeneration, a three year project driven by the late Jennie Harris – NT Education Director and the Albany Director in the 80s.

The project wasn’t without controversy and its success compromised in some ways, but it would be fair to say that the Albany wouldn’t still be here if the project hadn’t existed. When it began, the fate of the Albany looked pretty grim: the building was falling apart at the seams with a skeleton staff of about five, a café open just a few hours a day, and a beautiful 300 seater theatre – that was permanently closed to the public.

The National Theatre was able to bring the infrastructure and expertise that reinforced the crucial role the Albany could, and has, played at the heart of the Deptford ecology. Although we’ve had our ups and downs in the intervening decade, the project truly set the course for the Albany to become what it is today: a thriving creative hub with over 300 arts events and over 130k visitors each year.

The Art of Regeneration ran from 2001–4, covering the last change over at the National; Sir Trevor Nunn, when he left in 2003, described the project as one of the things he was most proud of in his time at the helm. It was a fairly unusual project for the NT, but it needn’t be. It proved what a national organisation can achieve by working in partnership with specific communities.

The current economic and political climate is forcing arts venues across the country to radically reappraise the roles they play in their localities.

It strikes me that one of the challenges for Rufus Norris, as he seeks to define his own model for how the National Theatre must operate in today’s conditions, will be answering the question of the way in which the National Theatre can act as a leader, and supporter, of venues nationally. Ultimately the true test of his success will not only be the number of bums on seats on the Southbank, rather it will be the health of the performing arts landscape across the UK.

Gavin Barlow, CEO, The Albany

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