Maidstone school takes delivery of an ENTIRE 240-seat auditorium after it was destined for a skip at leading London venue
PUBLISHED: 09:18 04 March 2017
Architect Tim Foster came to the rescue - and was inspired by friendship with composers Stiles and Drewe
A school in Maidstone is celebrating after it was donated an entire theatre by a famous London theatre under-going a major refurbishment.
The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn announced last year it was seeking a new home for the innovative structure which is designed to be dismantled and reassembled as a whole working 240-seat auditorium.
And now Valley Park School has emerged as the lucky recipient and will erect the pop-up venue in its old gymnasium.
Designed by renowned architect Tim Foster back in 1979, it was due to be dumped as the London venue underwent its transformation.
Explained Mr Foster: “It seemed to me a terrible waste to allow it to go in the skip, so I contacted the Tricycle and asked them if I could find a new home for it, which they agreed to.”
He then agreed he would have the final say on just where the remarakble structure would end up after receiving a host of applications. And it was thanks to a Kent link to one of the nation’s top composers that the school triumphed
The architect added: “In deciding they should have it, I was particularly influenced by the support of Anthony Drewe of [British composing duo] Stiles and Drewe, who are patrons of the performing arts at the school and reminded me of their first production of Just So at The Tricycle in 1990, which I remember well.”
Mr Drewe grew up in Maidstone before going on to pen a number of successful musicals including the likes of re-workings of classics such as Mary Poppins and Wind in the Willows.
The move will save the school a fortune. It is already well known for its support of theatrical and musical production and the delivery of the theatre strucutre has already been made.
Mr Foster said: “The school has acquired a world-class theatre at a fraction of the cost of a new building.
“The Tricycle was the first theatre I designed as a young architect, and I remained closely associated with the building for over 35 years, rebuilding the theatre after the disastrous 1987 fire and then adding the award-winning cinema and rehearsal room extension in 1998.
“I was also a member of the board for 12 years. I was determined that the current management should not simply throw it in a skip and I am grateful to them for allowing me to remove it and find it a new home.”
The gifted architect said the auditorium was designed to last and the latest move will ensure it does.
He said: “Some may say that after 36 years it has had a good run for its money and it is time for a change. I however feel it embodies timeless theatrical principles that are as valid today as they were when it was built.
“Being built from a standard scaffold system it was low cost and unpretentious but its form was derived from the 18th century Georgian Theatre in Richmond Yorkshire, which gave it a theatrical power, which has been emulated worldwide.
“Theatres with side galleries which embrace the stage and connect the audience to the actor are now the norm but in 1980 they were relatively novel, with the likes of The Young Vic and The Cottesloe leading the way. Despite its small size the theatre is capable of housing both the epic and the intimate.”
Mr Foster has been responsible for many theatre projects carried out by his practice including the Salisbury Playhouse Redevelopment, the Trafalgar Studios, the Broadway Theatre in Barking, the redevelopment of the Theatre Royal Norwich, the restoration of the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham and the St James Theatre in London. He has also designed theatres for schools and universities, which include those at Dulwich College, The American School in London, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Bedford School and Royal Holloway University.
He said: “We now live in an age of ‘pop up’ theatre and an auditorium which can be loaded on the back of a lorry and moved to a new location is an idea that has found its time. It is not a new idea however – just as Burbage moved the Globe from Shoreditch to Southwark so we are moving the Tricycle from Kilburn to Kent.”
The head at the school could not be happier to be chosen among others that showed keen interest.
Vic Ashdown explained: “We are delighted that Tim Foster has chosen Valley Park School to be the new home for the Tricycle theatre. It also further cements the links with our patrons George Stiles and Anthony Drewe as it was the first London venue for their prize winning musical Just So. The new theatre will also enhance the outstanding work that happens within the performing arts department here at our school, providing yet more unforgettable experiences for our students and becoming a valuable creative resource for our local community.”
Iain Mackintosh, theatre consultant and historian, said: “In 1979, when planning our ‘unworthy scaffold’, Tim and I sent Tricycle founder Ken Chubb off to Richmond in Yorkshire to the 1788 Georgian Playhouse. This is a unique survivor from the end of the 18th century. In 1963 the Prospect Theatre Company, which I had co-founded, had restaged the first play there for over a century, The Provok’d Wife, with a cast led by Eileen Atkins that transferred to the Vaudeville. Ken said he sat in the auditorium alone for four hours. He returned and told us to go ahead.
“There were once over 200 such playhouses the length and breadth of England at the end of the 18th century. They were scaled to work for comedy and for tragedy but were also most flexible. Players wheeled wheelbarrows from the gallery to the stage. The pit was floored over for parties. But we kept stum about the Tricycle’s antecedents knowing that the form of the Tricycle had to work for the 1980s, not as an antiquarian reconstruction, albeit in steel scaffolding which is the modern equivalent of Burbage’s oak timbers, but as a place for audiences to relish intimacy with the actors of today and to be stimulated by contemporary playwrights at home in such an intimate space.”