The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry has announced that its doors will reopen to the public on 17 May 2021, with socially distanced audiences able to enjoy Joe Pasquale and Sarah Earnshaw in John Godber’s April in Paris, which kicks off its UK tour at the venue.
Following April in Paris, the Belgrade continues to book in performances at short notice and audiences will be able to enjoy an eclectic mix of music, theatre and comedy over the summer months The theatre’s digital offerings also continue: Jabala and the Jinn, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Private Peaceful and the MT Festival UK will stream at various times between the end of March and the beginning of June. An autumn season of non-socially distanced work from 1 September will be announced on 1 June.
A £5.5 million 2020 Redevelopment Project for the theatre has provided new spaces for audiences, visitors and additional capacity for workshops and community groups.
Joanna Reid, executive director of the Belgrade, said:
“The whole team can’t wait to reopen on 17 May and to welcome shows and audiences back into our two auditoria as soon as possible. We are delighted that we are launching a tour of April in Paris on 17 May and are continuing to work to secure more shows during May to August. We’re excited that we’ve been able to complete our 2020 Redevelopment in time for City of Culture despite the challenges posed by both the pandemic and Brexit. We hope to see you back at the Belgrade soon!”
A key partner of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, the Belgrade Theatre’s 2021 programme is being delivered by three diverse artists under the role of co-artistic directors alongside members of the local community. Corey Campbell, Balisha Karra and Justine Themen are developing a new vision and way of working for a 21st century theatre, bringing with them a unique perspective that celebrates the City’s diversity and drives positive change.
As well as directing the City of Culture opening event, Coventry Moves, Themen has commissioned a brand-new digital version of Like There’s No Tomorrow (19 May-13 June 2021), one of the first National Theatre Connections plays to be specifically commissioned for and created by young people. Originally devised by Belgrade Youth Theatre in March 2020, in 2021 it will amplify the voices of Coventry’s young people and their views on climate change, across the country. The Belgrade will also be hosting the region’s NT Connections Festival this summer, showcasing work by local youth theatres across the West Midlands.
Another cornerstone of the City of Culture programme, the Belgrade will co-present with Paines Plough a festival of new world-class plays and community-led activities in the world’s first plug-in, pop-up and play theatre Roundabout (26 July-8 August 2021).
Karra will direct Coventry-based playwright Frankie Meredith’s May Queen, and the other plays that will be played in repertory throughout the festival are Hungry by Chris Bush, Really Big and Really Loud by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba, with music by Ben and Max Ringham.
Filming has also begun on SeaView, an original digital series developed by Strictly Arts Theatre Company and Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd using theatre techniques, conceived before Covid-19 took the world of theatre online, and directed by Corey Campbell. Inspired by a true story, and lived experiences, SeaView is a supernatural drama centred on urban, working-class communities in the Midlands.
The Belgrade rapidly adapted to making its offerings digital, including taking its annual pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk online which was watched by 55,600 people in the UK and in 25 countries across the world.
Councillor David Welsh, from Coventry City Council, added: “There has been so much work happening throughout the Covid outbreak to improve facilities at the Belgrade Theatre and I am really pleased that they can now take the first tentative steps by announcing what future productions they will be able to host. I want to thank all those involved for the hard work they have put into getting the Belgrade Theatre ready, and I wish the theatre every success.”