BAC: A theatrical trailblazer faces a different kind of blaze

In Features, London theatre, News, Opinion by Mark ShentonLeave a Comment

I’ll admit that I seldom go to BAC. But I have always liked — even loved — that it’s there. It’s a major home for emerging theatre companies, and even if I miss them at the beginning of their lives there, I acknowledge that the building has a major role in developing the talent of the future and the future, in turn, of the theatre. It is here, after all, that my favourite British musical of the century so far — Jerry Springer the Opera — was born. It’s also where the 1927 company, whose show Golem transfers to the West End’s Trafalgar Studios next month, began. So it was particularly distressing to hear of the fire that engulfed the venue yesterday — and utterly destroyed its venerable 120 year old Grand Hall. But I’m also heartened to read of the support the venue has received.  And that David Jubb, it artistic director, posted this on Twitter yesterday: Thanks to all for offering support. It’s heartbreaking. But we will get through this. Brick by brick. Fires, of course, were once part of the natural cycle of theatre buildings, and regularly required re-building from the ground up in centuries past. Nowadays, the fire-proof resilience that we have today has created its own set of problems — venues now survive much longer than they ever used to. But this means that they can suffer unexpected/unforeseen building failures like the one that occurred at the Apollo when its roof partially collapsed in December 2013. Not that fires still don’t happen. In the thirty years alone, the Tricycle was virtually burnt to the ground in 1987 and three years later the Savoy was engulfed in a fire, too, on the eve of the opening of a new produciton of Ben Travers’s Thark. Both those theatres came back from the ashes. And BAC will, too.
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Mark Shenton
My Theatre Mates co-founder Mark Shenton is one of the UK’s leading theatre critics and correspondents, whose regular credits include LondonTheatre, Playbill.com and The Stage, where he is contributing editor. He chairs the drama section of the Critics’ Circle, and hosts the annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, held at the Prince of Wales Theatre. He blogs independently at www.shentonstage.com and tweets @ShentonStage.

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