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One Shed of Red

April 16, 2014

Happy Birthday to the Shed. The wooden contraption grafted onto the front of the National Theatre, and suddenly the coolest venue in London.

I’ve written before about wanting to save it, and it looks like we could be lucky. What I wanted to do today is explain why.

Simply, it’s first year has made me want to go to the theatre again. Particularly the National. I’ve seen more in the Shed in the last year than the other auditoria. That isn’t just down to the fact the programme changes more often, but also because the work they do is fascinating, the ticket prices reasonable, the seats wonderfully close to the stage and the atmosphere totally relaxed.

OK, there have been a couple of shows I’ve been less than keen on. “Bullet Catch” was a total mess, and I thought “Home” was boring; but “Blurred Lines” is one of the most exciting pieces of theatre I’ve seen in years, and “Nut” was an intriguing piece of drama.

The National Theatre does tend to have a “house style,” which is fine, but grates a bit if you see too much of it. You can guess the scenery, how the lighting will go, even when you’ll get a music interlude. In the Shed, they seem to have left those rules mostly behind, and it’s a joy to be surprised each time.

Better still, the relationship between the audience and stage is like a fringe venue that hasn’t been simply carved from an existing pub. It’s “properly done” with a large enough budget that there’s no scrimping, but not as lavishly comfortable as a West End theatre either. That tangy edge lends something to both the space and the performers, making it easy to involve every member of the audience in the stage action.

£20 for a top cast and some great new writing is appealing, and the “restricted view” policy of the last year (sadly gone now) put some fantastic £12 seats in the reach of the least pecunious.

The venue will last until 2017 if permission is granted, and they say it can’t go beyond that as it will have exceeded its lifespan. I say that as a birthday present we should club together for a few cans of red creosote and see if we can’t extend the life of one of the best theatres to open in London, ever.

Once again, Happy Birthday, Shed.


I’m not blogging for a bit, back on the 14th May, leaping the odd bank holiday. Have a good one, one and all.

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