OVER the next two weeks the Crucible is marking its 40th birthday with a line-up of events celebrating the story of the theatre and the place it holds in the life of the city.
There will be a series of one-off productions staged especially for the birthday, many of them involving local artists, and some familiar faces return.
It begins with Fanfared. Echoing Fanfare, the Crucible’s opening show in 1971, Invisible Flock will take audiences on a unique theatrical journey into an imaginary world they have created in and around the Crucible. Inspired by the venue’s history, audiences will have a one-to-one experience with a performer who will guide them through all areas of the theatre, including backstage dressing rooms, stage areas, the Crucible roof and wardrobe department (Tue 1 – Sat 12 November, 7pm).
The Sheffield People’s Theatre, a community ensemble for local people of all ages, makes its debut tonight with an epic show, Lives in Art, on the Crucible stage.
It is directed by Sheffield Theatres’ Creative Producer, Andrew Loretto, who said: “Very early on in the post Daniel Evans asked me to come up with an idea for the 40th birthday and it’s fantastic that this should be the cornerstone of the celebrations. I think it says a lot about Daniel that he puts the community centre stage.”
Written by Richard Hurford, Lives in Art features one professional, Andrew Dunn (from Dinnerladies), leading a company of 55 local performers aged between 12 and 87 years old.
A live band and community choir also appear on stage, whilst behind the scenes, local individuals also support with directing, design, lighting, sound and stage management.
“That means there are about 100 people involved,” says Loretto who says that they come from all backgrounds, age groups and levels of experience..
“Before I started there was a youth theatre here but I wanted it to be broader, the reason being that in society as a whole and particularly in Sheffield there’s a huge number of older people wanting to be involved in the arts. New work often means young but it could be any age.
“So we made it aged 12 and upwards and we had open auditions at weekends in July and 300 turned up, many of them setting foot in the Crucible for the first time as well as people who were experienced.” People were chosen on the basis of their potential as team players, storytelling and interesting characters. “In the play they end up playing variations of themselves.”
In choosing something for the 40th anniversary, “We decided we should acknowledge the past and refer to it but I wanted it to be about moving forward. I came up with the working title, Lives in Art, and it stuck.
“We talked about why art is important. It follows the idea of, what if the Crucible opened in November 1971 and shut soon after and was left abandoned and unloved? Given the current context of funding it chimes with today.
“Richard Hurford came on board and there has been an element of devising in the text along with video, photography and design, and music and movement. We wanted to create a piece of theatre to be exciting and fun and show off the space.”
Andrew Dunn plays Battersby, a Scrooge-like figure who is in charge of the empty building. “He’s been there for 40 years in charge of what he calls ‘vermin’ - the people trapped inside. He is in a world where there’s anarchy outside in the streets. Art was abolished in 1971. It’s a kind of parallel universe.”
However, as stories unfold, music soars and memories of love and life come rushing back, the magic of art proves unstoppable.
Lives in Art runs until Saturday, November 12.
On Saturday afternoon Forced Entertainment presents That Night Follows Day, the English language premiere of a comical and poignant piece written by their Artistic Director, Tim Etchells. Performed by young people aged eight to 14, this play explores the ways in which the adult world shapes and defines that of young people.
In My Shoes, a new dance piece by Sheffield-based hip-hop crew, Rationale, explores age and culture through the lens of a family therapy session. Combining spoken word and hip-hop dance, it will be performed on Tuesday.
The birthday falls next Wednesday when there will be Passing Through, a community promenade performance choreographed by Caroline Lamb from Millennium Galleries to the Crucible via the Winter Garden.
Later Mark Lawson will host a discussion with Artistic Directors past and present including Colin George, Peter James, Michael Rudman and Deborah Paige.
lFour-page Special on 40 Years of the Crucible, pages 23-26