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Interview: A Man On A (Theatre) Mission

David Burchhardt’s UK Theatre Tour – a mission to snapshot UK theatres

We were delighted to meet up with performer David Burchhardt recently at the Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival. You may know of some of his puppeteering shows with the award-winning Smoking Apples theatre company, or his acting and recording work. But this year, with the theatre sector in a fragile state and needing support at all levels, he is setting out on a mission to give visibility to, and raise the profile of, hundreds of individual venues across Britain.

David’s ambitious project will see him attempt to visit every theatre in the UK, documenting each on YouTube, to give a snapshot of the industry in the 2020s and celebrate its importance. The project is titled ‘The UK Theatre Tour’, and here he tells us all about it.

Raising profiles, encouraging engagement

Each of my video episodes will profile and showcase a theatre, exploring its history, its workings behind the scenes and significance (locally and/or nationally). This might reveal information about its activities regarding sustainability, access, inclusion and leading edge trends in contemporary theatre such as pay what you can options, community engagement – or even about their bars! It’s unique for every venue and fascinating to find out what they all do.

Apart from raising interest generally, my hope is for the channel to encourage further interactions with the theatre industry, including boosting numbers of visitors to each building to see a show or take a tour, as well providing insight for actors and producers considering venues for their future projects.

On top of this I’ve been chatting to the people behind the theatre too; the unsung heroes who run these institutions – artistic directors/front of house staff/backstage staff/volunteers – to gain their insight on the theatre as well as the industry as a whole: what are the challenges they face and what does the future hold?

Videos from around the UK

I started my tour in Sheffield, and have followed up with some London theatres, but venues from Surrey and Yorkshire will be profiled soon as well as a major West End theatre. Below you’ll find links to all the published YouTube videos, where you can visit the oldest surviving Victorian theatre in Sheffield, take a trip to the new King’s Head venue in Islington, get behind the scenes at the Actor’s Church in Covent Garden, or hear about the Arcola’s leading edge sustainability programme. There’s so much to learn!

The Lantern, Sheffield

King’s Head Theatre, Angel

The Actor’s Church, Covent Garden

The Arcola Theatre, Dalston

Follow the tour’s progress

If you want to find out more about the tour, do follow me on Instagram here. And if you think your venue would like to participate in the tour please DM me for a chat. Can’t wait to hear from you!

The Lanterns, Sheffield

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 16 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre, but is currently helping at Shakespeare's Globe as a steward and in the archive. She's also having fun being ET's specialist in children's theatre and puppetry, and being a Super Assessor for the Offies! Mary now insists on being called The Master having used the Covid pandemic to achieve an award winning MA in London's Theatre and Performance.