Lyric Hammersmith reopening in 2021 with new shows

15 October, 2020 / by Matt Smith

Images above: Lyric Hammersmith, Rachel O’Riordan; Lyric Hammersmith’s Artistic Director 

Lyric Hammersmith has announced a season of new productions for its planned reopening next year.

The theatre is introducing two one-person shows which will be presented to a socially distanced audience from early 2021.

The first production, in January, is Iphigenia in Splott. The play is inspired by the eponymous Greek myth and won ‘Best New Play’ at the UK theatre awards. Sancho: An Act of Remembrance is the second play, scheduled for February, about an emancipated slave who fights for his right to vote in the UK.

Both productions are on sale from Thursday 15 October; tickets £15.00-£23.00 per person.

Rachel O’Riordan, Lyric Hammersmith’s Artistic Director spoke to The Chiswick Calendar about upcoming performances, and how the theatre will operate in the Covid era.

Iphigenia in Splott

Images above: promotional photo of Sophie Melville who plays Effie (Photograph: Alex Mills), Promotional artwork for Iphigenia in Splott

Written by Gary Owen and starring Sophie Melville, Iphigenia in Splott is set to be the first play in ten months to be performed on Lyric’s iconic Matcham stage. Sophie Melville will be reprising her role as Effie, which she has played previously at The National Theatre and for which she has won a Stage Award for acting excellence and an Evening Standard Award nomination for Best Actress.

Effie’s character is described as ‘the kind of girl you avoid making eye contact with’. Her life is a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night (and a hangover worse than death the next day) until one night gives her the chance to be something more.

“I feel it’s got a lot to say right now” Said Rachel O’Riordan.

“It’s got a lot to talk about in terms of society, class, opportunity, privilege, poverty and that may sound bleak but it’s actually a really funny and raw piece of theatre.”

Iphigenia in Splott will premiere on Friday 22 January and finish on Saturday 13 February 2021.

Sancho: An Act of Remembrance

Images above: Paterson Joseph, Promotional artwork for Sancho: An Act of Remembrance

Sancho: An Act of Remembrance is written, directed and performed by Paterson Joseph, who has starred in TV shows such as Channel 4’s The End of the F***ing World and Doctor Who and is known for his role as Keaty in Danny Boyle’s critically acclaimed film The Beach in 2000.

Paterson will be making his Lyric debut in February 2021, with his revealing and funny one-man show  which tells the remarkable story of Charles Ignatius Sancho. Charles was born on a slave ship in 1729 and educated in secret. He later became a composer, actor, anti-slavery campaigner and the first Black person of African origin to vote in Britain. The play, which based on a true story, is about a man who lived a ground-breaking life.

“It’s quite an extraordinary story” said Rachel. “In Iphigenia in Splott, Effie is born into a really underprivileged background but she doesn’t see the privilege she has, she has the right to vote and she has her identity.”

“In Sancho, we have a man who has been born into the most inhuman of circumstances, and yet when he gains his freedom that of course isn’t enough. He must have that decision making, that agency, he needs to vote.”

Sancho: An Act of Remembrance will premiere on Thursday 25 February and will finish on Saturday 20 March 2021.

Heart of Hammersmith

Images above: Rachel O’Riordan directing, Promotional artwork for Heart of Hammersmith

Heart of Hammersmith is the Lyric’s first ever large-scale community production, which will open in Summer 2021. The production will celebrate and tell the stories of the people and community of Hammersmith and will work directly with the people of west London who will create the production from their own stories, alongside a team of professional creatives including the Artistic Director, Rachel O’Riordan and the Lyric’s resident director Alex Hirst.

The production will be led by a group of 15 young people, who will form a core of the production company and will be between 18-25 and recruited from west London. They will shape, develop and recruit other members of their community to be involved with the show, to create a truly inter-generational production.

“The only people from the older generations which will be allowed to perform in this play will be those selected by the young people, so we’re giving them the autonomy to make that choice.” said Rachel.

The new normal

Images above: Interior of Lyric Hammersmith’s auditorium

Whilst the Lyric will be opening in January it won’t be back to business as usual. Socially distanced seating will be introduced in the auditorium, with only 180 out of 594 seats being made available to ticket holders.

“One of the benefits of having a really big theatre is that we can adhere to social distancing really effectively. We are working really carefully and closely with our full team to make sure we are Covid safe and Covid secure” said Rachel, though she admits that this is not sustainable in the long-term

The Lyric has been closed since March due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, when it re-opens in January it will have been closed for ten months.

The theatre has recently received £377,361 of Government money to help cover the cost of the building’s maintenance and staff payments  over the winter – as well and other costs such as utility bills and insurance.

Whilst the Government’s financial aid was welcomed by the theatre, it isn’t enough to ensure long term financial viability. A fundraiser was launched in early October which aims to raise £50,000 to help with the theatre’s reopening. At time of writing £28,957 has been raised.

You can follow the link below to Lyric Hammersmith’s fundraiser

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Lyric Hammersmith sets £50,000 fundraising target to reopen

See also: West London culture venues receive government money

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