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How Comfy Are Your Seats? The Space

We absolutely adore The Space Arts Centre. And not just because one of our reviewers also happens to be heavily involved! It’s a venue that promises a home for exciting new writing, offering a place to try out new works that might not otherwise get the chance to grow. We might not love every play we see there, but we love that they are always willing to take the risk to try something different. It’s what draws us back at every opportunity.

So who better then to be the second venue in our How Comfy Are Your Seats? series than The Space’s Deputy Director, Matthew Jameson, to share more on why you really should be visiting this wonderful building soon.

Let’s dive straight in, what’s your role at The Space?

It was an ever shifting, no-two-days-the-same kind of job even before the pandemic, and now it’s even more varied. I tend to manage the visiting companies and productions, co-ordinate marketing, deal with site maintenance and handle in-house producing, with a few bits of dramaturgy, programming and directing thrown in. I’m also the livestream camera operator and currently the de facto bar manager (but don’t get me talking about the bar…)

We’ll be honest, last time we come we got a little lost due to road works, tell us the best way to get there.

Not a problem, every first visit is a step into the unknown, but it does get easier. You can’t go too far wrong with the 5 minutes walk from Mudchute DLR. And we’ve got 3 buses that stop right outside the venue with a helpful announcement from Canary Wharf, who have just streamlined the bus traffic. If you’re feeling leisurely, you can catch the Thames Clipper to Canary Wharf Pier, which is a lush journey from Central London or the East.

Right, we know how to find you, but once we get there, what’s on offer before we head in for a show? Is it time to mention that bar?

Oh go on, get me talking about the bar! We’ve recently taken on management of the in-house bar (now named ‘the Space Bar’) and we are loving being pub landlords. We’ve got a long, sun-trap beer garden for this weather as well as an atmospheric inside seating area just at the back above the theatre, converted from what used to be the church’s vestry. We’ve been listening to our artists and audiences about what they want from a bar, so have been making some changes to our stock which have been very popular. We’re in the process of re-opening the kitchen to bring back a limited menu, hopefully from mid/late June, which we’ll expand as we go.

And once we head inside, what’s the size and layout for a show?

Under social distancing, we’ve been operating in either end-on, or reverse end-on for our raised main stage. Currently our max capacity is 40, and we’ve already had some sold out shows since re-opening. We’re lucky that we have no fixed seating, so in non-Covid times, anything goes! In the round, traverse, promenade, you name it, someone has staged it here.

What type of shows are The Space’s forte?

We’re all about new writing and/or emerging artists. But ’emerging’ doesn’t just mean artists under 30! We’re all about giving a platform to companies who want to showcase their skills, make socially relevant work or just need a supportive environment to get their show off the ground. For internal productions, we’ve had a cracking run of new writing festivals pre, during and post-lockdowns, which we’re bringing home with the Foreword Festival (playing from Next Tuesday 8th with Laura Horton‘s Labyrinth Diet to open). We’ve got four new scripts which were selected from our script development programme, ScriptSpace, that we’re giving full productions to.

What can people normally expect to pay for a ticket for a show?

It’s largely up to the companies that perform with us, but we try to cap our standard price and concessions as £15 & £12. For online viewers, we’ve been conscious of economic accessibility, so our livestream prices operate on 3 bands: £10 standard, £15 supporters rate and £5 low income rate. We want to make sure that everyone who wants to see our shows can, regardless of financial or geographical barriers.

Any personal highlights from past shows?

We’ve had a lot of brilliant work during my time here. I always love work that fully embraces the uniqueness of the venue, so Threedumb Theatre‘s revolutionary The Black Cat was a great example of how you can truly embrace streaming and digital theatre fusion. I also have great memories of Two Fest, our last in-house, in-venue production before the pandemic, 13 plays over three bills across two weeks. Absolute madness, but nuanced, varied work throughout.

Do you have any “they played here first” stories of big names or shows that started with you?

It’s our 25th anniversary as a venue this September, so we’ve seen a fair few who are now household names (including Les Enfants Terrible) as well as our dear patron Sir Ian [McKellen], who rehearsed and kicked off his 80th birthday one-man show here. We’re more excited about the next steps and developments of recent projects such as Four O’Clock Flowers by Louise Breckon-Richards, which is hitting the film festival circuit having debuted as a play at the last Foreword Festival in 2019. The companies and artists we have at the Space today are tomorrow’s headliners, see them here first!

What are the plans for the coming months then, what exciting shows have you got lined up for us?

We’re currently programmed for our Summer/Autumn season until the end of October, which is a far longer season than we’ve ever had before, but we’ve had plenty of pre-Covid projects to reschedule as well as many new and exciting shows approach us. I’m particularly excited for our first partnership with the London Horror Festival in October (who are currently taking applications here). There’s also a lot of top secret things being lined up for the 25th anniversary, but you’ll have to watch this Space.

So tell us just why we should all come along to see a show at The Space? What’s your unique selling point?

It’s a gorgeous, grade II listed building with the most reasonably priced, atmospheric bar in London. The theatre itself is intimate enough to be personal and grand enough to be epic. The shows we programme are made by the theatre innovators of the future and you’ll want to see them here first.

Finally, and obviously the most important question of all, how comfy are the chairs?

The chairs themselves? More padded than average. But the legroom? Unbeatable!


Thanks to Matthew for finding time in his very busy day to chat with us. You can find a list of reviews and articles from the Space below.

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