Khuzema Hussain, AIA; Alasdair Dixon; Siri Zanelli; Christopher Daniel; Holly Barker
Collective Works designed a unique 200-seat temporary theatre in collaboration with the Old Vic Community Company, and the community developed Rise, a performance showcasing Londoners' hopes and fears about the environment.
The Community Company is London's largest inclusive theatre company, formed in 2013 to bring together Londoners from every background. A show entitled "Rise," was written specifically for the Community Company by Deidre Kinahan and was a response to real Londoners' hopes and fears about the environment. The performance itself involved 200 actors, many of whom would be constantly moving through the structure, either on foot or by bicycle.
The architects, Collective Works, brought experience of temporary structures, reusable materials and performance spaces and worked alongside innovative structural engineers Corbett & Tasker as well as set designer Carla Goodman. From project inception in late 2015 the architects worked closely with the Director and the Community Company to understand the unusual nature of the show and ensure the huge cast could be accommodated, and the show delivered, for just 10 days, as efficiently as possible. The resulting structure was designed as a 17 meter cube, with a pitch set to rise above the stage allowing a second level for the cast and choir to perform. The access was key so six entrances were positioned at ground and first floor level to allow all public, cast, performers and crew to get in and out as easily as possible.
In response to the show's theme and in line with the very temporary nature of the performance, the theatre was made entirely from reusable, reclaimed and rented materials. The main structure of scaffolding was professionally assembled and clad with a tensioned tarpaulin of the sort normally used to clad soft-sided commercial vehicles. Rather than traditional foundations the structure relied on water ballast provided by Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs), usually used for transporting liquids. Collective Works proposed and sponsored the installation of super graphics on the facade, taking the show's title and applying it in two meter high letters across each public face. As well as performing in the show many of the Community Company worked alongside the scaffolders, set builders, architects and production team to complete the build, making everything from cladding and box office to the props and signage.
In order to provide as little disruption to the park as possible, the structure was built in just seven days and completely removed just four days after the show had completed. BOST, who operate and own the park were on board early and happily agreed to the programme and outcomes. The powerful production resonated with first-time audiences and experienced theatregoers alike. As with every Old Vic Community Company performance, tickets were free so over 2,000 people, from all walks of life, enjoyed the show and could personally explore the impact of climate change in the city. Following the final performance, the materials used are either back in commercial usage, finding new life through other community projects or being stored at the Old Vic with next year in mind.