What is the Shop Front Theatre?
In the eyes of a recent audience member, “…this space has the value that Stratford’s Theatre Royal East gave to theatre in the 1960s viz Joan Littlewood. A vital part of Coventry’s contribution to creativity.”
The Shop Front Theatre is an old fish and chip shop restaurant, once called Fishy Moore’s, located on the corner of Queen Victoria Road and the bottom of City Arcade, in Coventry city centre precinct. In December 2009, after negotiating terms with Coventry city council, we opened for business. It is the only professional theatre space of its kind in the UK.
More thoughts about the shop front theatre here via:
The Guardian A Nation’s Theatre – event held at the Shop Front Theatre – October 2015
Locating Cultural Value (scroll down the link page for Chris O’Connell’s response to the Warwick Commission – May 2015
Inside the shop
The space is essentially empty, seating approximately 55 people in any configuration of seats that you can imagine. It currently has only domestic voltage, no lighting rig, minimal lighting on stands, no where to fly in huge sets and no paint or prop store. It’s not like any regular theatre, but that’s the point. It is very limited in terms of what it offers, but the limitations are what attracted us to the space in the first place.
Our inspiration for the shop
Inspired by Oracle Productions and the store front theatre scene in Chicago, our space was born out of a desire to challenge ourselves as theatre makers. After twenty years touring work for studio theatres, we were craving new ways to think about how we worked, and to connect better with the local community and the audiences for whom the work is ultimately made. We have taken everything away that we have grown to rely on, and put back only what we need. Which is always story. And actors! Anything else has to earn its place.
Join us in the shop
It’s not just Theatre Absolute working in the shop. The space is available for hire to other organisations, individual artists and users and is open all year round, shape shifting to suit various needs: a theatre performance space, a rehearsal space, a gallery space, a dance space, a receiving space for touring work, and much more. In any of its formats, the premise of the Shop Front Theatre is to offer high quality theatre and arts experiences, either as participants or audiences, at an affordable price with direct and diverse access opportunities for the public and artists.
Supporting the shop
The Shop Front Theatre receives no core funding. Chris O’Connell and Julia Negus run the space voluntarily. You can help support its pioneering work by donating via our Local Giving page. Any amount is truly welcome.