For many years now I have wanted us to perform in the oldest theatre in the UK. When I say old I don’t mean a couple of centuries, I mean specifically 140AD for that is when they have dated the Roman Theatre in the city known as Verulamium. It is now known as St Albans after the Christian saint who was later martyred there.
You can visit the theatre today, but you would be forgiven for thinking it was a pile of old stones. Well of course it is in ruins being over 2000 years old, but you can still make out where the stage and audience were. It’s a bit unusual because most theatres in Roman and Greek times were built on sloping sites so the audience could easily see the action. Here it is a gentle slope but as you can see the stage is prominent. It would have been a raised wooden stage but obviously that is long gone.
When we set up Theatretrain in 1992 we started large scale performances from the first year and originally my plan was to perform at all the theatres in London. Well that is a bit impractical because there are about 150 of them and most of them can’t accommodate our kind of numbers. Then many theatres have in them big sets that can’t be changed, and some have no space for dressing rooms. So it came down to those big theatres that can be taken over by us for a day. I still want us to perform in the Royal Opera House and the Royal National Theatre but the powers that be have not, as yet, smiled upon our request. Having said that I have been having discussions with another London theatre that we have never performed at before and I am expecting to make an announcement later in the year.
We like performing in the open air because it gives our students a different kind of experience. The weather can play a part and one worry is that you do all the hard work, and it might pour down with rain on the day – and we know that can happen even in the height of summer.
Yet I would still like to tick off Verulamium. We would have to hire a generator because we’d need microphones and speakers as we would like the audience to hear the show!
I also love the thought that we would be performing at a place where we know Roman people were doing the same over 2000 years ago.