Belgrade Theatre to reopen its doors on May 17th

Belgrade Theatre to reopen its doors on May 17th

The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – the UK City of Culture for 2021 – is to reopen its doors to the public on 17th May – the first day that the government’s roadmap allows – with socially distanced audiences able to enjoy Joe Pasquale and Sarah Earnshaw in John Godber’s April in Paris, which kicks off its UK tour at the Belgrade.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Those first audience members through the doors will also be able to enjoy the brand-new upstairs Café Bar Nineteen58 and newly refurbished downstairs Belgrade Café which has been created in the building as part of the £5.5m 2020 Redevelopment Project for the theatre; as well as the enhanced food and beverage offering, this has provided new spaces for audiences, visitors and additional capacity for workshops and community groups.

Prior to this, from 12th April, The Belgrade Café will be offering a full range of locally sourced food and drink for patrons to takeaway and enjoy on tables outside the theatre on Belgrade Square. The refurbishment was inspired by and named after the theatre’s founding year and is decorated with vintage show posters and artwork from across the decades.

Above and right: The new-look cafe (Artist’s impression by Corstorphine + Wright Architects)

Coventry, Belgrade Theatre, cafeThe Belgrade is Coventry’s largest professional theatre, producing and presenting a diverse range of shows, events and ground-breaking community and education initiatives. In its landmark building, across the region, the UK and online, it uses theatre to entertain, inspire, share the city’s stories, uncover hidden histories, and unleash the creativity of diverse communities.

Joanna Reid, Executive Director of the Belgrade, said, “The whole team can’t wait to reopen on 17 May and to welcome shows and audiences back into our two auditoria as soon as possible.  We are delighted that we are launching a tour of APRIL IN PARIS on Monday 17 May and are continuing to work to secure more shows during May to August. We’re excited that we’ve been able to complete our 2020 Redevelopment in time for City of Culture despite the challenges posed by both the pandemic and Brexit.  We hope to see you back at the Belgrade soon!

Following April in Paris, the Belgrade continues to book in performances at short notice and audiences will be able to enjoy an eclectic mix of music, theatre and comedy  over the summer months The theatre’s digital offerings also continue: Jabala and the Jinn, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Private Peaceful and the MT Festival UK will stream at various times between the end of March and the beginning of June.

The UK Asian Film Festival will also be hosted at the venue, with socially distanced audiences watching five film premieres in the Belgrade’s B2 auditorium, including the world premiere of Beatles and India. These films have been selected by five Coventry locals, after training in film curation. The UK Asian Film Festival celebrates the art of storytelling extending from ancient oral traditions to tales told in today’s digital age, giving wings to South Asian roots since 1997. This year’s programming theme is Ray of Hope to mark the birth centenary of Satyajit Ray. The film choices reflect the shift in power that bring hope to the lives of the protagonists. Further details to be announced.

An autumn season of non-socially distanced work from 1 September will be announced on 1st June.

A key partner of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, the Belgrade Theatre’s 2021 programme is being delivered by three diverse artists under the role of Co-Artistic Directors alongside members of the local community.  Corey Campbell, Balisha Karra and Justine Themen are developing a new vision and way of working for a 21st Century Theatre, bringing with them a unique perspective that celebrates the City’s diversity and drives positive change.

As well as directing the City of Culture opening event, Coventry Moves, Justine Themen has commissioned a brand-new digital version of Like There’s No Tomorrow (Weds 19 May – Sun 13 June 2021), one of the first National Theatre Connections plays to be specifically commissioned for and created by young people. Originally devised by Belgrade Youth Theatre in March 2020, in 2021 it will amplify the voices of Coventry’s young people and their views on climate change, across the country. The Belgrade will also be hosting the region’s NT Connections Festival this summer, showcasing work by local youth theatres across the West Midlands.

The new Roundabout pop-up theatre

Another cornerstone of the City of Culture programme, The Belgrade will co-present with Paines Plough, a festival of new world-class plays and community-led activities in the world’s first plug-in, pop-up and play theatre Roundabout (Monday 26 July – Sunday 8 August 2021). Balisha Karra will direct Coventry based playwright Frankie Meredith’s May Queen, and the other plays that will be played in repertory throughout the festival are Hungry by Chris Bush, Really Big and Really Loud by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba, with music by Ben and Max Ringham.

Belgrade Theatre, Seaview, Coventry
A scene from Seaview

Filming has also begun on SeaView, an original digital series developed by Strictly Arts Theatre Company and Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd using theatre techniques, conceived before Covid-19 took the world of theatre online, and directed by Corey Campbell. Inspired by a true story, and lived experiences, SeaView is a supernatural drama centred on urban, working class communities in the Midlands. It follows the story of Steven, a high-flying university student who appears to have a bright future ahead of him… Release dates and further information to be announced shortly.

Whilst – as with so many theatres across the country during 2020– The Belgrade wasn’t able to present live work on stage during much of the year, the whole team worked hard to keep engaging with local audiences and communities. The theatre rapidly adapted to making its offerings digital, including taking their annual pantomime online – Jack and the Beanstalk was watched by 55,600 people in the UK and in 25 countries across the world. The team behind the theatre’s renowned participation programme Click Spring also continued to offer workshops, Summer School and Acting Classes over Zoom. They also kept engaging with audiences on social media, including Facebook pub quizzes and online play-reading groups, and created podcasts, education packs and Spotify musical theatre playlists.

Councillor David Welsh, from Coventry City Council, said, ““There has been so much work happening throughout the Covid outbreak to improve facilities at the Belgrade Theatre and I am really pleased that they can now take the first tentative steps by announcing what future productions they will be able to host. I want to thank all those involved for the hard work they have put into getting the Belgrade Theatre ready, and I wish the theatre every success.”

Makers to ‘pop up’ at theatre’s outdoor market

Makers to ‘pop up’ at theatre’s outdoor market

ALL things bright and beautiful are arriving in Coventry with the Belgrade Theatre’s first Outdoor Makers’ Market from 11am-4pm on Saturday 29 August.

Organised by Craft On, the Belgrade’s resident needlecraft for wellbeing group, the event will see 16 local artists and makers assemble to sell their wares outside the theatre in Belgrade Square.

Pop-up craft shop, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

A wide range of handmade items will be available to browse and purchase, including greetings cards, wall plaques, paintings, jewellery, dolls, dreamcatchers, felt and fused glass ornaments, knitted baby clothes and accessories, and more.

The event is child-friendly and free to attend. Throughout the day, the Belgrade café bar will also be open and serving a selection of snacks and drinks which you can enjoy either outdoors or inside the theatre’s spacious foyers.

A wet-weather contingency plan has also been putting place, allowing the market to take place inside the building while maintaining social distancing, should it be unable to go ahead outside as planned.

Pop-up craft shop, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Craft On group leader Niki Doughty Lee, who is managing bookings for the pop-up shops as well as the Makers’ Market, said: “We’re grateful to the Belgrade Theatre for all they’ve done to accommodate our weekly craft sessions and to support and promote our work, so we’re delighted to be able to help them in return as COVID restrictions start to lift. We hope events like this will send a clear message that the theatre is now open and accessible to the community, even if shows are still unable to go ahead.

“I set up Craft On with the aim of reducing isolation and promoting mental wellbeing in Coventry – something which has never been more important than it is now that we are beginning to emerge from lockdown. Theatres like the Belgrade play a vital role in holding the community together, so we want to do everything we can to help keep them going through this difficult period and ensure their work can continue in the future.”

The Outdoor Makers’ Market will take place in Belgrade Square from 11am-4pm on Saturday 29 August. For any enquiries, email needlecraftforwellbeing@gmail.com.

A show to really immerse yourself in!

A show to really immerse yourself in!

JUST when you think you’ve seen all types of show after nigh on 30 years of reviewing, along comes Club 2B – a theatrical experience like no other.

Club 2B, Belgrade Theatre

This immersive performance not only smashes through that fourth wall but actively encourages the audience to become a part of the story and even explore the room as the action unfolds around you.

Seated at cabaret-style tables in the Belgrade’s flexible B2 auditorium, the scene is immediately set for an interesting – and intriguing – night ahead, complete with food, drink, live music and gaming tables.

First the story. It’s a bit loose to be honest. It’s a retelling of Zeus and Hera’s search for happiness via godly embodiments of historical figures such as Lady Godiva and Marilyn Monroe. Yes, you read it right!

Club 2B’s mysterious owner Z is not all he seems. This larger-than-life, charismatic figure is none other than Zeus, the Greek king of gods and men, descended from the heavens in human form and driven by his love for the goddess Hera. Taking on the form of any man or woman, we watch as their story of passion, jealousy and revenge plays out across the ages.

Berlgrade Theatre, Club 2B
Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Corey Campbell (Zeus). Photo by Robert Day.

It does take a while to get going. The snack plate (don’t skip your dinner for this) and interaction with cast members mingling at the tables, goes only so far to detracting from this, but one does find themselves wondering when the show has officially started.

The good news is, when it does, it’s worth waiting for and we are in for a treat. The talent of this small but strong cast shines through with a stunning mix of music and storytelling all around us, capturing our imaginations.

Belgrade Theatre, Club 2B

The addition of gaming tables (you are given playing chips) is a clever touch – although it’s easy to lose your focus on the action around you. Still, I won a glass of wine for my troubles so worth it!

The show is helmed by Strictly Arts Artistic Director Corey Campbell, his first developed at the Belgrade since his appointment as one of the Theatre’s three Co-Artistic Directors for Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021.

Iona Coburn, Meg Forgan, Aimee Powell, Charis McRoberts and Katy Anna-Southgate make up the rest of the cast but it’s Forgan’s stand-out vocal segment as Marilyn Monroe that stole the show for me – and many others – on the night. The girls also share an obvious rapport and joy in their roles, which is definitely infectious.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Club 2B
Iona Coburn (Hera), Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Charis McRoberts (Godiva). Photo: Robert Day.

It’s not one for the introvert. Anyone is fair game to be pulled up for a dance or become part of the performance, but it’s part of this show’s charm.

This marks a proud world premiere for the Belgrade Theatre, running until 31st December. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.club2b.co.uk.

Latest panto is the cat’s pyjamas!

Latest panto is the cat’s pyjamas!

PANTOMIME season is upon us and one of the best every year in my opinion is The Belgrade Theatre’s offering. And Puss in Boots has real welly.

In fact, the production’s first return to the Coventry stage since 1991, proves to be the purr-fect way of getting us all into the festive spirit.

It’s in no small part due to the talent of the show’s writer, director and Dame Iain Lauchlan who this year celebrates his landmark 25th Belgrade pantomime.

Peter Watts as Victor Grabbit and ensemble. Photo by Robert Day.

This thrilling adventure ‘tail’ follows the adventures of a crafty cat in fabulous footwear who rescues the village of Baggy Bottom on the Bog from the clutches of an evil ogre and his horrible henchman, Victor Grabbit.

Lauchlan is reunited with comedy co-star Craig Hollingsworth in the roles of miller’s wife Matilda Pudding and her would-be rap star son, Simon. The pair’s chemistry never fails to win over audiences – I don’t even mind the repetition of their refreshed scene sequences each year as they don’t stop being funny.

Joanna Thorne as Puss in Boots and Peter Watts as Victor Grabbit. Photo by Robert Day.

Joanna Thorne is back getting her claws into the role of Puss in Boots following her stint as the handsome prince in last year’s Sleeping Beauty and Peter Watts makes a suitably wicked panto villain as the Ogre’s henchman, Victor Grabbit.

The show is packed with amazing sets, crazy costumes, music, magic and so much more, plus a rather clever metamorphosing ogre to catch our attention later on. Intrigued?

And there’s a clever twist which proved effective in engaging even the older child (I dragged my 14-year-old along who ended up loving it) with the chance of a big screen appearance! A few people’s ‘ogre selfies’ tagged in to Hollingsworth’s Instagram alter ego rap character Baggy B, were shared to audiences in the second act – to riotous laughter and applause.

And the spectacular set was a fitting backdrop to the five star fun. Congratulations all round for another fun-packed festive hit.

Craig Hollingsworth, Iain Lauchlan and David Gillbrook. Photo by Robert Day.

Puss in Boots shows at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry until Saturday, 11th January. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper.

Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

FOLLOWING their critically acclaimed UK tour and West End run of Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame, Angela Browne Ltd return to Coventry with another compulsive psychological thriller.

Angie Smith and Mark Huckett as Mark and Sally Driscoll.

Dangerous Obsession, which was adapted into a film called Darkness Falls in 1999, is widely accepted to be writer N J Crisp’s finest psycho-thriller.

It certainly is an intense journey.

The whole story is told in the conservatory of a wealthy couple’s luxurious home where Sally Driscoll receives a gentleman caller – a previous acquaintance on a drunken night out she can barely recall.

The unassuming and courteous John Barrett slowly peels away the layers of Sally and husband Mark’s apparently perfect lives, to expose some ugly secrets.

But what exactly happened in Torquay, what is in the suitcase and what is Mark’s true role in all of this?

This new staging of the play, directed by Karen Henson, consists of a cast of just three, Mark Huckett and Angie Smith as Mark and Sally Driscoll and Michael Sherwin as John Barrett. They work brilliantly to create an intimate and highly charged atmosphere in the theatre as the answers to all those questions – and more – emerge.

Dangerous Obsession, Beklgrade Theatre, Coventry
Michael Sherwin as John Barrett.

There is suspense by the bucketful as we are, metaphorically, drawn nearer and nearer to the edge of our seats.

The acting is strong all round but Sherwin’s portrayal of the villain of the piece (or is he?) is just the right amount of sinister – a convincing and compelling watch and one I’d definitely recommend. But you’ll have to move fast as it closes tomorrow night. (Saturday)

Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book for two or more participating shows together to claim 20% off tickets.