31 July 2016

Touring the new Tara Arts theatre

Earlsfield has been lucky to have Tara Arts right at its heart since 1983 (read here for more about their history). In October 2014 they closed the theatre for a substantial renovation to update the fabric of the building and create a whole new venue. I was lucky enough to tour the new space recently with Jatinder Verma, the artistic director. It's a cliche, but his passion for the theatre and what they do within and beyond its walls shone through.

Even from the outside, the 1880s building combines respect for its heritage - the facade, the tree design that grows up the outside - with a modern sensibility.

The branching design reflects one of the original trees on site
The natural theme continues throughout the building. From the Devon earth theatre floor to the tree motif running through all sections of the building, there's a natural feel to the new theatre. From the tiny, bee-house containing courtyard to the green roof and solar panels, this is culture-meets-ecology on Garratt Lane.

Bricks from the original building have been painstakingly cleaned and re-used and combined with doors and woodwork imported from India and bright colour schemes (be sure to check out the loos...).

The new building has extended down to the basement with a green room and storage space, and now has offices and a rehearsal / classroom space above the theatre. It's accessible via lift and should provide useful venue hire for local groups too. The masterpiece is of course the theatre itself. I can't speak to the stagecraft side of things, but looking from the audience side the stage and surrounding space looks to lend itself to creative productions across lots of levels.

Tara Arts have a slew of new productions lined up, from Shakespeare to their own commissions, with the season starting in mid-September. I understand there will be a community open day soon for locals to come and have a look inside before the main season gets underway. Highly recommended!

If this has whetted your appetite, Tara Arts is looking for more volunteers: information and application forms are on their website.

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