INTERVIEW: Alphabetti Theatre | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Home-grown Geordie collective Alphabetti Theatre are celebrating a dramatic change of scenery, opening the curtain on their new venue on Sunday 8th March. It’s the culmination of a hugely successful online crowdfunding campaign which came to an end last month, in which they bossed their £2,500 everything-or-nothing target.

Their Newcastle city centre space, 18 New Bridge Street West – just across from Newcastle City Library and next door to New Bridge Books – was previously a joiner’s workshop, film-set and illicit nightclub (not at the same time, we should point out).

“In our previous venue there were rules and regulations that made it difficult for us to be able to be as creative as we wanted to be,” recalls Assistant Artistic Director Lee Rosher, referencing their previous base of operations above the Dog & Parrot pub. “Now we have our own bar, we’ll take 100 percent of the takings. It provides us with full ownership of Alphabetti and that opens doors.”

For anybody unfamiliar with Alphabetti, Lee fills us in: “There’s two sides to us – there’s the venue where we bring in other theatre companies, we put on gigs and other sorts of events. And the other side is actually producing and creating our own material. It’s all new writing – there’s a focus on comedy but we’re exploring increasingly dramatic scripts. It’s a platform to fill that gap after finishing university.”

Lee knows only too well the struggles of graduate-job hunting. “I’d been working for free and volunteering myself as a director for three years before Alphabetti came along,” he says. “I’ve known a lot of people who’ve been involved with the industry and then given up after a few years. Alphabetti keeps going and it keeps fighting and doesn’t give up. When there are theatre organisations like that, people feel more inclined to keep on trying.”

The new venue launch takes the form of hugely popular regular night Alphabetti Soup, on Sunday 8th March: “It’s kind of like a variety show where we encourage people from all performing arts aspects to apply.” Audiences can expect a dash of comedy, a sumptuous smattering of original theatre and some freshly baked slam, all finished off with a garnish of live music. A damn tasty recipe.

“Alphabetti keeps going and it keeps fighting and doesn’t give up. When there are theatre organisations like that, people feel more inclined to keep on trying”

Alphabetti’s not just for thespians and playwrights though: “We want photographers, we want designers, we want anyone who’s out of work or looking for a bit more experience, to get involved because there’s always something to do. We encourage musicians to come along and play – we do gigs and we’re planning a couple of performance poetry scratch nights. We’re also starting a new thing called the 24 Hour Theatre Challenge [launching Sunday 15th March and thereafter every third Sunday of the month]; you meet early in the morning, create a short play and by the end of that day perform it to a live audience.”

Another ongoing project is HMS Alphabetti: a 16 foot-long former speed-boat. “It was a zany idea at first but it actually is amazing,” Lee explains. The quirky pop-up stage, ideal for touring summer festivals, fits in with Alphabetti’s wider ethos: “It’s not really about taking yourself too seriously – although Alphabetti can do serious shows. We’re all about being warm and inviting to people – we’re here to have fun and we want everybody to have a good time. When you see something that unique, that special, you want to learn more and you feel compelled to get involved.”

Alphabetti Theatre is located at 18 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle.

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