The Bridge House Theatre, Penge, fell victim to the ravages of COVID-19 in December 2020, when director Guy Retallack decided its continuance was unsustainable. Now, as the curtain of the corona virus begins to lift, the good news from SE20 is that under the artistic direction of Luke Adamson, who lives locally, the theatre will reopen this summer.
We will have a focus on Creatives & Community
Adamson is an actor, writer and director with over twenty years experience in the theatre, most recently at the award winning Hope Theatre in Islington, where he had four very successful years as Associate Director, working alongside Artistic Director Matthew Parker. During that time the venue won five Off West End awards and was nominated for Fringe Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards. His own play, Oh No It Isn't, won Best Comedy at The Cormac Richard awards in Cornwall in 2020, along with nominations in both the acting and directing categories at the Offies.
The past year has given the theatre world a lot to think about and Adamson is clearly reflecting the state of the industry in his plans for the Bridge House. Celebrating his new venture he announced, “We will have a focus on Creatives & Community. We want to do what we can to serve both of these groups and we look forward to meeting lots of new people, opening up conversations and creating a space that people want to bring shows to, and see shows at”.
He’s identified four groups within the realms of emerging theatre makers with whom he is particularly keen to work and whose artistic endeavours he wants to support, encourage and develop: working class artists; artists from the Global Majority; non-binary or gender-fluid artists and LGBTQ+ artists. His aim is to redress the balance of representation in a programme of inclusivity, featuring groups that remain underrepresented in the theatre. At the same time he will continue to feature work from established small scale companies in a broad programme of entertainment.
The Bridge House is a classic, sixty-seater pub venue, but it offers companies the chance to reconfigure the space to meet the demands of their production and audiences will never know what it’s going to look like from one visit to the next. Inspiration from lock-down theatre is being incorporated into the modus operandi of Adamson’s new venture. Each performing company will have the opportunity to film their show for online streaming for a period once their run is finished. Aware of how companies continue to struggle economically, he is also designing a pay-what-you-decide course on producing small scale theatre, offering budding creatives the chance to learn, free from financial barriers.
This supportive approach is an extension of strategies developed within JLA Productions, a company formed with Joseph Lindoe after they both graduated from ALRA. The informal networking evenings they organised there to encourage collaboration between artists and the sharing of expertise will be continued in their new setting, with Lindoe working as Associate Director. Welcoming the new venture he said, “This is a fantastic opportunity to create a new theatre space at a time when, frankly, we're all feeling a little deprived of culture and events. I'm really excited to be part of a place that will be proactive and creative in its approach to the industry and welcoming to all audiences..."
His enthusiasm is shared by Scott and Sinon, the owner/managers of The Bridge House pub. Commenting on future prospects they said, “It is with great excitement that we have the opportunity to relaunch The Bridge House Theatre with Luke and Joe. The energy and excitement that Luke and Joe will bring to our community theatre is exactly what is needed in these tough times. With a hunger for the arts, we truly feel the people of our community deserve fantastic entertainment that Luke and Joe can provide.”