Tag Archive for: tabard theatre

Pals at the Tabard theatre

Pals is a full-on, high-energy romp through childhood and adolescence, keeping pace with the soundtrack of my youth – Slade, Lindisfarne, it’s all there.

Pete, Andy, Linda and Sue are growing up in a Birmingham council estate and are mates, throughout everything, from lying on their backs making shapes out of the clouds as kids, being parted by the 11+, through discos and first kisses to the bittersweet experience of launching into adult life.

The cast are great, especially Amy Anderson, who plays Linda, the brightest of the bunch in many ways, but doomed to stack shelves in Woolworths. Philip John Jones, who plays Pete, couldn’t decide if he was a Brummie or Welsh and I thought it lingered a bit too long on early childhood, as their lives became way more interesting and complicated as they grew up. But the sheer energy of the young cast carried them through a good script, aided by an excellent sound track (especially if your own youth happens to fit the time frame). I didn’t expect the end, which comes suddenly and leaves you pondering life’s vicissitudes.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

See also: Simon Reilly leaves Tabard theatre

Wayne Sleep dancer

Is that who I think it is?

Photo credit BBC

Yes, dancer Wayne Sleep – “the greatest virtuoso dancer the Royal Ballet has ever produced” (Dame Ninette de Valois) lives in Strand on the Green and is often to be spotted in riverside pubs.

In a story which parallels that of the fictional Billy Elliott, he started dancing aged eight and at 13 won a scholarship for the Royal Ballet School. It meant that he was able to live away from home and away from a stepfather he disliked. Ninette de Valois, one of the most influential figures in the history of ballet and regarded as the “godmother” of English ballet, took a shine to Wayne because of his talent. Talking to Bridget Osborne, Editor of The Chiswick Calendar In Conversation at the Tabard Theatre in 2016, he described their relationship.

Small victory

His breakthrough came at 17 when the Royal Ballet needed a small man to play the part of Napoleon. At 5ft 2ins his height had always been a concern, but it gave him his first contract.

He toured America for the first time in 1967 and became a Principal Dancer in 1973, appearing in more than 50 major roles created for him by Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth Macmillan, Dame Ninette de Valois, Rudolf Nureyev, Joe Layton and John Neumeier. He knew both Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov intimately. Among the many famous people Wayne Sleep has got to know during his long career was dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer Robert Helpmann.

Acting with Judi Dench

In 1980 Wayne formed his own dance company DASH, which after many seasons in the West End toured the world, concluding back in London at the Coliseum. The concept for DASH was to present dance to a wider audience using a mix of styles including ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary. Wayne Sleep has also had an acting career in parallel with his dancing career. He talks here about acting alongside Dame Judi Dench and her generosity as an actor.

Dancing with Diana

To the majority of the population who aren’t particularly ballet fans, he is probably best known for his friendship with Princess Diana. It was 1985 when Wayne Sleep danced with Princess Diana at the Royal Opera House. The public were enchanted and the dance made Wayne into a global celebrity. He talked to Bridget Osborne, Editor of The Chiswick Calendar In Conversation at the Tabard theatre in 2016 and described what dancing with Diana was like.

Simon Reilly, Manager of the Tabard theatre 2008-2019

Simon Reilly, Manager of the Tabard theatre 2008-2019

Profile by Bridget Osborne

June 2018 (Updated 2019)

Simon Reilly (second from the right), with Alan Alda (centre) and the cast of Radiance

Ten Years at the Tabard

The Tabard theatre is full of surprises. First of all that it’s there at all. Not every London suburb has its own bijou (100 seat) theatre, and secondly that the productions are consistently so good and so varied for such a small, local theatre. One minute you see that Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey) and Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean) are there being interviewed about their careers in theatre by their son, or that Alan Alda has popped over from Hollywood for the European premier of a play he’s written. The next they’re putting on a production by a young playwright making their debut with a cast fresh out of drama school.

The mix of productions and the quality threshold over the past ten years has been largely down to the energy and talent of Tabard Managing Director Simon Reilly, who celebrated ten years at the Tabard in 2018. Most managers celebrating their ten year anniversary would open a bottle of champers and take their staff out for a meal perhaps, but this is theatre dahling, so Simon took his staff to an Escape Room in Shepherd’s Bush. If you don’t know what that is, think Fort Boyard or The Crystal Maze only locked inside built sets, more Laser Quest than RSC. You enter a themed room, a forest glade or Victorian drawing room to solve your murder mystery and have to find your way out using puzzles and clues. Step forward Sandra the resident stage manager, Alec who does front of house and Dave the intern and claim your moment in the spotlight. “We got out in 53 minutes” says Simon proudly.

Left: Simon with members of his team celebrating his ten year anniversary. Right: Sandra and Simon with Phyllis Logan, Kevin and David McNally.

A solid grounding in theatre

Simon studied economics and law at university, which he says has helped him tremendously. “When running a theatre predominantly by yourself you have to have a business head” he says, but it was the education he received as President of Leicester University’s Theatre Society which gave him the chance to try out every aspect of theatre, running twelve productions a year. He then did a post grad qualification in acting at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in Wood Green even though he already knew he didn’t want to be an actor: “I wanted to get a feel for how an actor does their preparation.”

His first job in theatre was as a producer in a small company touring shows in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby. From there he went to the Warehouse theatre in Croydon, (which has since been demolished) as Marketing Manager. “I remember people like Russell Brand and Russell Howard, who now sell out huge venues, playing to four or five people.”

“Marketing”, says Simon, “is the cornerstone of producing”. When he moved to the Hackney Empire, a big leap from a 100 seat to a 1,300 seat theatre with a marketing budget of £300,000 there were “heated discussions” about productions. “Marketing can only be as good as the show you’re putting on” he says. “Programming would programme productions without any respect for marketing and Marketing would just get lumped with the problem.”

Building up the audience

I think that rather answered my next question – why go from the Hackney Empire to a run-down little pub theatre which seats only 100 people? At the Tabard Simon has control of the whole process. Some shows are bought in. The Tabard just provides technical support to a theatre company which does the rest, but a number of shows each year are produced in house, where they produce the show, build the sets, choose the music, source the costumes and props – the whole nine yards – and you can see this is where he gets his job satisfaction.

The theatre was dark for a few years before he arrived. “The Tabard has been around since 1985 but it was not well run and it was dirty” he says. When he came to it Fred Perry (nominated for an ‘Offie’, an Off West End award for Best Male Performance in Tryst at the Tabard last autumn) had carried out a refurbishment of the theatre but they had to build the audience from scratch.

Simon’s greatest achievement at the Tabard?

“What I am most proud of is seeing so many members of the local community come back again and again. We have a stall at the Bedford Park Festival Green Days weekend and invariably the people I meet tell me that they have come recently.”
The Chiswick Calendar has made many videos of productions at the Tabard. We’ve done many interviews with actors and directors and what I like about the theatre most is the variety and at the same time the quality threshold which we’ve come to expect. “People now come for the theatre first and foremost” says Simon. “It’s more about the theatre for them than the individual shows”, which means that he has built an expectation of standards.

The theatre used to see audiences of ten and twenty people a night but now some shows sell out every single performance. The Tabard has benefitted greatly from comedians such as Dara O’Brien, Jenny Éclair, Frank Skinner and Russell Howard using it to try out their material in front of a small audience before they go on tour or record a TV show. Their contract with comedy producers Avalon is their bread and butter but it also gives the people of Chiswick the opportunity to see big names very cheaply on their doorstep.

Simon oversaw a second refurbishment of the theatre last year. “Invariably when I talked to people they would complain about the uncomfortable seating.” That went. When the pub changed hands. Greene King took over and the theatre entered a new lease, they took the opportunity to rip out the old uncomfortable seating and install a new bar.

Favourite productions?

Clearly a difficult one. He had to think about that, as there have been so many but he came up with Oscar Wilde’s Ideal Husband from 2014 and Gilbert and Sullivan productions in 2011 and 2012.

Future ambitions for the Tabard?

“I’d like to put on another Gilbert and Sullivan. I want to do HMS Pinafore” and “my main ambition is getting a bigger theatre in Chiswick, about 300 seats with the ability to build our own sets. Knocking down the Empire theatre was a cultural tragedy”. It would be great to have a bigger theatre in Chiswick again.

Update 2019

Simon left the Tabard one year later, having achieved all he felt he could achieve in the space.

The Tabard theatre is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme

tabardtheatre.co.uk

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Simon Reilly to leave Tabard theatre

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

Search The Chiswick Calendar

Simon Reilly to leave Tabard theatre

Simon Reilly, the Manager of the Tabard theatre, is leaving the job after eleven years. ‘After 11 happy years at the helm of the Tabard Theatre, the time is right to move on’ he says. ‘I’ll be pursuing other projects… I would like to thank all of the staff, volunteers and audiences who have supported the Tabard Theatre over the years and I wish the theatre every success in the future’.

Simon has built the studio theatre up from a run down, poorly attended space to one which attracts good audiences to see an eclectic mix of interesting productions, in newly refurbished premises. Thank you Simon for eleven years of great theatre, within staggering distance of home.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Profile – Simon Reilly celebrates ten years at the Tabard theatre

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

The Importance of Being Earnest – Tabard theatre

I had the pleasure of attending the Tabard Theatre’s production of the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest last Thursday night and I have to say I was not disappointed. The production chose to stay relatively true to the original play, staging the performance in a similar style to that of the 1895 Oscar Wilde performance, with the costumes and dialogue emulating the late Victorian style, a choice which I personally enjoyed and respected – after all why tamper with a classic?!

It must be hard to make your mark on a play which everybody knows: a farcical comedy following the story of Jack, who falls head-over-heels in love with his friend Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen. However, in order to marry Gwendolen Jack must convince her mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell, that he is an appropriate suitor. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, given that Jack was abandoned as a baby and left in a handbag at Victoria Station!

The best known line in the play, which the whole audience is waiting for, comes when Jack reveals to Lady Bracknell how he started life. “A handbag!?” she exclaims in horror – now one of the most iconic lines in theatre history. However, in this production Lady Bracknell responds quietly, with her facial expressions conveying her disgust. This was a clever move, confounding expectations.

The play really took off in the second half for me. Despite the second act being almost twice as long as the first, time appeared to fly by, partly due to the introduction of Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble to the story. Jo Ashe and Dean Harris stole the show with their portrayal of these two characters, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention post-interval. Harris in particular brought in laughs even when he wasn’t speaking, from his reaction to other characters’  dialogue. His shivering and utterance of “brrrr” when the other characters were discussing cold chills was a particular highlight for me.

The cast kept the audience fully engaged throughout, not only with their line-delivery but with the breaking of the fourth wall to give bemusing looks tinged with dramatic irony. Samuel Oakes’ portrayal of Algeron added a further level of excitement to the play with his charming yet cheeky interpretation of the character, his exaggerated facial expressions and movement.

I would highly recommend seeing The Importance of Being Earnest, which is running until Sunday 23 June. The Tabard put on a fantastic true-to-script production of an Oscar Wilde classic, complete with tongue-in-cheek humour and excellent staging, making for an enjoyable and truly immersive viewing experience.

Chiswick Playhouse

Chiswick Playhouse

The Chiswick Play house, Previously known as The Tabard, is an intimate, studio seat theatre close to Turnham Green tube station at 2 Bath Rd, Chiswick, London W4 1LW. It opened in 1985 above the Tabard Pub, a popular and historic local landmark. It quickly built a strong reputation for new writing. Over the years the Playhouse has played a key role in the development of London Theatre, highly acclaimed for its professional work and extremely popular within the community of West London. The theatre offers a mix of plays and comedy, as many stand-up comedians find it the perfect venue to try out new material before a tour or a TV show. The Playhouse is a member of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme, offering a £4.00 discount on tickets for their main productions.

Read a profile of the Playhouse’s Managing Director here.

Watch our videos about past productions at the Chiswick Playhouse.

Lonely Planet – June 2017

In the 1980s AIDS was a killer for which there was no cure. To find out that you had HIV was to hear your death sentence. Lonely Planet is an endearing, absurdly comical and poignant tale of friendship between two gay men in an American city, whose friends are dying and who are themselves living with the fear that they themselves may test positive for the disease. Bridget Osborne met Aaron Vodovoz, the producer and one of the two actors in the play.

Montagu – May 2017

What more fitting during a general election campaign focused on political leadership, than a satire on the nature of political leadership? Montagu takes place in a field, with the protagonists as a herd of donkeys. Montagu has no interest in politics but is elected leader regardless. He resists the manipulation of ‘visionary’ rivals and becomes quite ruthless as he navigates the two key questions: “How do I stay in power” and “what will be my legacy”? The play was all horribly familiar and uncannily on the money.

The Chainsaw Manicure – May 2017

Two girls Abigail and Frances, share a flat with a distinctly odd flatmate, Gary, whose sole interests appear to be practising the trumpet and cutting things up with his chainsaw. The girls become increasingly alarmed as this madcap farce hurtles towards its calamitous ending. Bridget Osborne talks to the cast.

The Last Tycoon – October 2016

F Scott Fitzgerald’s last and unfinished novel The last Tycoon was made into a film starring Robert de Niro and has also been adapted as a play. Ruby in the Dust Theatre company presented the European premiere of the theatre version at the Tabard. Set in 1930s Hollywood the play deals with Fitzgerald’s favourite themes of love and obsession and is based on true characters. Nikki Ward met director Linnie Reedman.

Broken Strings – September 2016

Actor Steven Arnold, best known for playing Ashley Peacock in Coronation Street, found out that he had been nominated for an ‘Offie’, an Off West End award, for best male actor in Broken Strings, while he was being interviewed by The Chiswick Calendar. His character David finds himself living with his mother in law after his wife Susan dies. He promised her that he would look after her mother Rose, played by another recognisable face from TV drama, Linda Clark. He told Bridget Osborne that he was delighted to have been nominated, especially as he had never trained as a stage actor.

The Superhero – July 2016

Due to a climatic crisis Earth has been plunged into an ice age, nature is out of whack and London is chaos. As mammoths and penguins roam the streets, humans of the rare blood type AB minus have evolved into Superheroes with a vow to protect the vulnerable. Amongst this cold, harsh and irrevocably dangerous environment, fourteen year old Kate falls in love with one such Superhero only to find he is not quite what he seems…. The Playwright Sophie Swithinbank spoke to Dougie Critchley to give the lowdown on this dark comedy with a 21st Century twist.

Walter & Lenny – June 2016

In 1963 the Dean of Chichester Cathedral Dr Walter Hussey wrote to the internationally famous composer Leonard Bernstein to ask if he would write something for the Chichester Festival. The resulting friendship between the cleric and the composer of West Side Story produced the now famous Chichester Psalms and more than 50 years later, inspired the creation of a one man play by Peter McEnery, based on the correspondence between the two men. Peter, who was a founder member of the Royal Shakespeare Company under Sir Peter Hall, was directed by his wife Julia St John. They spoke to Bridget Osborne about the London premier of the play at the Bedford Park Festival and the letters which inspired it.

Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing

Critically acclaimed team Greg Freeman and Ken McClymont returned to the the Tabard Theatre for a brand new tale of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective saga. A perplexed Inspector Peacock summons Holmes and Watson to the home of Miss Lucy Grendle, the daughter of the late Alfred Grendle, a man who had a somewhat murky past. Miss Lucy Grendle has a problem with vodka… and Sherlock Holmes. Their paths have crossed before and it did not end well. Tension is in the air and it is not just because a murderous Invisible Thing is prowling the house. As the night unfolds, amidst a lethal concoction of a cadaver, origami and alcohol… Sherlock Holmes finally meets his match.

Wastwater – May 2016

The company which performed the highly successful ‘Bluebird’ at the Tabard in 2015 returned with another of Simon Stephens’ plays. Wastwater presents three separate vignettes of relationships linked by the characters. Set near Heathrow, the first scenario witnesses the awkward goodbyes of a foster mother and son who is leaving for Canada. The second is about an illicit affair and the third about an illegal adoption. All the characters are facing huge upheaval in their lives and are going through emotional turmoil. The emotions range from dark humour through desire and pain to terror. The cast included Mark Griffin, who was Trojan in the ’90s TV series Gladiators.

A Flea in her Ear – April 2016

A gloriously mad farce by the undisputed master of French farce, Georges Feydeau. Raymonde Chandebise sends a letter from a ‘secret’ admirer suggesting a romantic rendezvous at a local hotel in order to test her husband’s fidelity. What follows is a string of mix-ups involving suspicious spouses, hotel liaisons, crossed wires and slapstick comedy.

The Young Visiters – March 2016

Written by nine year old Daisy Ashford (hence the spelling mistake) and published by J. M. Barrie, The Young Visiters has been cult viewing since it was published in 1919. Though her spelling might be faulty, Ashford’s eye for adult absurdity and her comic timing were spot on. High japes and fake flowers, balls and boats, ice creams and princes – a child’s-eye view of what fools grown-ups make of themselves when social-climbing, falling in love and just generally getting by.

Sigurd the Dragon Slayer – December 2015

The 2015 Christmas production at the Tabard told the story of a young Viking prince Sigurd as he set off on an adventure fraught with peril. A compelling story for children of all ages with music, dance and puppets.

The Drunken City – December 2015

An encounter with a handsome stranger causes havoc on a hen night. Fuelled with drink and egged on by her bridesmaids, the bride starts to consider whether marriage is such a good idea. Director Vik Sivalingham told The Chiswick Calendar that Canadian writer Adam Bock’s play makes us all consider what happiness means to us.

Proof – September 2015

Proof is an award winning play by an award winning playwright. Author David Auburn won a Pulitzer Prize and the play won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2001. It’s about Catherine, a 25 year old woman who is looking after her brilliant mathematician father Robert, who’s losing his mind. As she grieves for him she has to contend with her controlling sister who jets in from New York and takes over, and her father’s former student, intent on searching her father’s notebooks in the hope of finding a new mathematical proof. Moving, funny and life-affirming.

Simpatico – September 2015

Simpatico is a play seething with resentment and revenge. Written by the hugely prolific American playwright Sam Shepard (award winning actor, film director and writer of some 50 plays) it’s classic Film Noir Americana. Director Will Birch tokd Nick Raikes about the play, which opens with a falling out amongst thieves.

Bruises – August 2015

Nadia Cavelle’s debut play ‘Bruises’ follows the lives of two best friends, and explored the topic of sex work. The Chiswick Calendar’s Nick Raikes spoke to writer, Nadia Cavelle and cast member, Eva-Jane Willis.

Shakespeare’s R&J – June 2015

After outstanding reviews in Stratford-upon-Avon, ‘Shakespeare’s R&J’, came to Chiswick. Director Christopher Harvey spoke to us about this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

The Tabard celebrates 30 years

Managing Director of the Tabard Theatre Simon Reilly talking to The Chiswick Calendar at the 2015 Bedford Park Festival Green Days weekend – June 2015. The Tabard Theatre notched up 30 years of entertaining Chiswickians in 2015. The theatre is part of the cultural landscape of Chiswick and always takes part in the Bedford Park Festival. We spoke to Simon Reilly at his stall during the Green Days weekend.

Fondly Remembered – June 2015

As part of the Bedford Park Festival, Fondly Remembered, a very funny new play by Gareth Armstrong, was be performed at the Tabard Theatre by a group of actors who live in Chiswick and between them have notched up nearly 250 years (and it’s a small cast!) of experience in TV and theatre – everything from Z Cars to Shakespeare. How fitting that the play is about the ageing members of a theatre company getting back together to plan the memorial service of one of their colleagues, unearthing as they do rivalries and jealousies that go back fifty years.

Bluebird – May 2015

Bluebird follows Jimmy, a mini cab driver, over the course of one night in London, exploring the city’s A-roads, back alleys and the lives that dwell around them. Jimmy listens as his ‘fares’ tell their individual stories in the back of his Nissan Bluebird. He hears from a father mourning the murder of his daughter, a bouncer’s memory of a violent night at his club, a disillusioned engineer of London’s underground, as well as, finally, Jimmy’s estranged wife Claire. Because as it turns out, Jimmy’s own is the darkest story of all. Bluebird’s writer Simon Stephens is most famous for his play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for which he won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2013. Selina Giles, producer and the actor who plays Jimmy’s estranged wife in Bluebird, talked to Bridget Osborne about the production.

Wilde Without The Boy – April 2015

Gerard Logan is an RSC actor and Olivier nominee who in 2011 won the Edinburgh Festival’s award for Best Solo Show. He teamed up with the same director, Gareth Armstrong, to present another solo show: two one act plays surrounding the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. “Wilde Without the Boy” is a dramatization of “De Profundis”, the bitterly passionate letter Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, from his cell in Reading gaol. “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” is Wilde’s is a poem narrating the execution of Charles Thomas Wooldridge. Gerard Logan told The Chiswick Calendar’s Nick Raikes why he found Oscar Wilde “inspiring” and his work “incredibly moving”.

Blush of Dogs – March 2015

A series of vicious civil wars has ended. A small city state half way across the world rebuilds itself in the ashes. The victorious King exiles his rival to the throne, his own brother, to a remote land far from the kingdom. The Queen, lover of her husband’s brother, raises in his absence the 3 young daughters he abandoned on his journey as she represses the love she harbours for the banished prince. The Fragen Theatre Company presented a new version of an ancient Greek story. Artistic director Roland Reynolds talked to The Chiswick Calendar and wondered if it might all be a bit much for leafy Chiswick.

Time of My Life – March 2015

Actor John Pickard talked to The Chiswick Calendar about Alan Ayckbourn’s play Time of My Life. Known best from TV roles in Hollyoaks and 2 point 4 Children, he played the elder son in this production, trying to keep the family business going and struggling to keep his marriage. Recorded in rehearsal, with the actors improvising the scenes.

The Lost Happy Endings – December 2014

The Tabard’s Christmas show was an adaptation of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s book The Lost Happy Endings, which incorporates traditional fairy stories within the framework of a new fairy tale. Nick Raikes talked to the actors in the fabulous forest set, designed by Lily Faith Knight. Original music by Mark Webber.

Sheltered – November 2014

An act of charity or something more sinister? A family invite a homeless person to Christmas lunch. This new play by a new playwright was inspired by a character Chiswick residents walked past under the railway bridge every day. Writer Greg A Smith talks about Sheltered.

Tag Archive for: tabard theatre

Pals at the Tabard theatre

Pals is a full-on, high-energy romp through childhood and adolescence, keeping pace with the soundtrack of my youth – Slade, Lindisfarne, it’s all there.

Pete, Andy, Linda and Sue are growing up in a Birmingham council estate and are mates, throughout everything, from lying on their backs making shapes out of the clouds as kids, being parted by the 11+, through discos and first kisses to the bittersweet experience of launching into adult life.

The cast are great, especially Amy Anderson, who plays Linda, the brightest of the bunch in many ways, but doomed to stack shelves in Woolworths. Philip John Jones, who plays Pete, couldn’t decide if he was a Brummie or Welsh and I thought it lingered a bit too long on early childhood, as their lives became way more interesting and complicated as they grew up. But the sheer energy of the young cast carried them through a good script, aided by an excellent sound track (especially if your own youth happens to fit the time frame). I didn’t expect the end, which comes suddenly and leaves you pondering life’s vicissitudes.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

See also: Simon Reilly leaves Tabard theatre

Wayne Sleep dancer

Is that who I think it is?

Photo credit BBC

Yes, dancer Wayne Sleep – “the greatest virtuoso dancer the Royal Ballet has ever produced” (Dame Ninette de Valois) lives in Strand on the Green and is often to be spotted in riverside pubs.

In a story which parallels that of the fictional Billy Elliott, he started dancing aged eight and at 13 won a scholarship for the Royal Ballet School. It meant that he was able to live away from home and away from a stepfather he disliked. Ninette de Valois, one of the most influential figures in the history of ballet and regarded as the “godmother” of English ballet, took a shine to Wayne because of his talent. Talking to Bridget Osborne, Editor of The Chiswick Calendar In Conversation at the Tabard Theatre in 2016, he described their relationship.

Small victory

His breakthrough came at 17 when the Royal Ballet needed a small man to play the part of Napoleon. At 5ft 2ins his height had always been a concern, but it gave him his first contract.

He toured America for the first time in 1967 and became a Principal Dancer in 1973, appearing in more than 50 major roles created for him by Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth Macmillan, Dame Ninette de Valois, Rudolf Nureyev, Joe Layton and John Neumeier. He knew both Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov intimately. Among the many famous people Wayne Sleep has got to know during his long career was dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer Robert Helpmann.

Acting with Judi Dench

In 1980 Wayne formed his own dance company DASH, which after many seasons in the West End toured the world, concluding back in London at the Coliseum. The concept for DASH was to present dance to a wider audience using a mix of styles including ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary. Wayne Sleep has also had an acting career in parallel with his dancing career. He talks here about acting alongside Dame Judi Dench and her generosity as an actor.

Dancing with Diana

To the majority of the population who aren’t particularly ballet fans, he is probably best known for his friendship with Princess Diana. It was 1985 when Wayne Sleep danced with Princess Diana at the Royal Opera House. The public were enchanted and the dance made Wayne into a global celebrity. He talked to Bridget Osborne, Editor of The Chiswick Calendar In Conversation at the Tabard theatre in 2016 and described what dancing with Diana was like.

Simon Reilly, Manager of the Tabard theatre 2008-2019

Simon Reilly, Manager of the Tabard theatre 2008-2019

Profile by Bridget Osborne

June 2018 (Updated 2019)

Simon Reilly (second from the right), with Alan Alda (centre) and the cast of Radiance

Ten Years at the Tabard

The Tabard theatre is full of surprises. First of all that it’s there at all. Not every London suburb has its own bijou (100 seat) theatre, and secondly that the productions are consistently so good and so varied for such a small, local theatre. One minute you see that Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey) and Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean) are there being interviewed about their careers in theatre by their son, or that Alan Alda has popped over from Hollywood for the European premier of a play he’s written. The next they’re putting on a production by a young playwright making their debut with a cast fresh out of drama school.

The mix of productions and the quality threshold over the past ten years has been largely down to the energy and talent of Tabard Managing Director Simon Reilly, who celebrated ten years at the Tabard in 2018. Most managers celebrating their ten year anniversary would open a bottle of champers and take their staff out for a meal perhaps, but this is theatre dahling, so Simon took his staff to an Escape Room in Shepherd’s Bush. If you don’t know what that is, think Fort Boyard or The Crystal Maze only locked inside built sets, more Laser Quest than RSC. You enter a themed room, a forest glade or Victorian drawing room to solve your murder mystery and have to find your way out using puzzles and clues. Step forward Sandra the resident stage manager, Alec who does front of house and Dave the intern and claim your moment in the spotlight. “We got out in 53 minutes” says Simon proudly.

Left: Simon with members of his team celebrating his ten year anniversary. Right: Sandra and Simon with Phyllis Logan, Kevin and David McNally.

A solid grounding in theatre

Simon studied economics and law at university, which he says has helped him tremendously. “When running a theatre predominantly by yourself you have to have a business head” he says, but it was the education he received as President of Leicester University’s Theatre Society which gave him the chance to try out every aspect of theatre, running twelve productions a year. He then did a post grad qualification in acting at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in Wood Green even though he already knew he didn’t want to be an actor: “I wanted to get a feel for how an actor does their preparation.”

His first job in theatre was as a producer in a small company touring shows in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby. From there he went to the Warehouse theatre in Croydon, (which has since been demolished) as Marketing Manager. “I remember people like Russell Brand and Russell Howard, who now sell out huge venues, playing to four or five people.”

“Marketing”, says Simon, “is the cornerstone of producing”. When he moved to the Hackney Empire, a big leap from a 100 seat to a 1,300 seat theatre with a marketing budget of £300,000 there were “heated discussions” about productions. “Marketing can only be as good as the show you’re putting on” he says. “Programming would programme productions without any respect for marketing and Marketing would just get lumped with the problem.”

Building up the audience

I think that rather answered my next question – why go from the Hackney Empire to a run-down little pub theatre which seats only 100 people? At the Tabard Simon has control of the whole process. Some shows are bought in. The Tabard just provides technical support to a theatre company which does the rest, but a number of shows each year are produced in house, where they produce the show, build the sets, choose the music, source the costumes and props – the whole nine yards – and you can see this is where he gets his job satisfaction.

The theatre was dark for a few years before he arrived. “The Tabard has been around since 1985 but it was not well run and it was dirty” he says. When he came to it Fred Perry (nominated for an ‘Offie’, an Off West End award for Best Male Performance in Tryst at the Tabard last autumn) had carried out a refurbishment of the theatre but they had to build the audience from scratch.

Simon’s greatest achievement at the Tabard?

“What I am most proud of is seeing so many members of the local community come back again and again. We have a stall at the Bedford Park Festival Green Days weekend and invariably the people I meet tell me that they have come recently.”
The Chiswick Calendar has made many videos of productions at the Tabard. We’ve done many interviews with actors and directors and what I like about the theatre most is the variety and at the same time the quality threshold which we’ve come to expect. “People now come for the theatre first and foremost” says Simon. “It’s more about the theatre for them than the individual shows”, which means that he has built an expectation of standards.

The theatre used to see audiences of ten and twenty people a night but now some shows sell out every single performance. The Tabard has benefitted greatly from comedians such as Dara O’Brien, Jenny Éclair, Frank Skinner and Russell Howard using it to try out their material in front of a small audience before they go on tour or record a TV show. Their contract with comedy producers Avalon is their bread and butter but it also gives the people of Chiswick the opportunity to see big names very cheaply on their doorstep.

Simon oversaw a second refurbishment of the theatre last year. “Invariably when I talked to people they would complain about the uncomfortable seating.” That went. When the pub changed hands. Greene King took over and the theatre entered a new lease, they took the opportunity to rip out the old uncomfortable seating and install a new bar.

Favourite productions?

Clearly a difficult one. He had to think about that, as there have been so many but he came up with Oscar Wilde’s Ideal Husband from 2014 and Gilbert and Sullivan productions in 2011 and 2012.

Future ambitions for the Tabard?

“I’d like to put on another Gilbert and Sullivan. I want to do HMS Pinafore” and “my main ambition is getting a bigger theatre in Chiswick, about 300 seats with the ability to build our own sets. Knocking down the Empire theatre was a cultural tragedy”. It would be great to have a bigger theatre in Chiswick again.

Update 2019

Simon left the Tabard one year later, having achieved all he felt he could achieve in the space.

The Tabard theatre is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme

tabardtheatre.co.uk

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Simon Reilly to leave Tabard theatre

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

Search The Chiswick Calendar

Simon Reilly to leave Tabard theatre

Simon Reilly, the Manager of the Tabard theatre, is leaving the job after eleven years. ‘After 11 happy years at the helm of the Tabard Theatre, the time is right to move on’ he says. ‘I’ll be pursuing other projects… I would like to thank all of the staff, volunteers and audiences who have supported the Tabard Theatre over the years and I wish the theatre every success in the future’.

Simon has built the studio theatre up from a run down, poorly attended space to one which attracts good audiences to see an eclectic mix of interesting productions, in newly refurbished premises. Thank you Simon for eleven years of great theatre, within staggering distance of home.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Profile – Simon Reilly celebrates ten years at the Tabard theatre

See also: Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

The Importance of Being Earnest – Tabard theatre

I had the pleasure of attending the Tabard Theatre’s production of the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest last Thursday night and I have to say I was not disappointed. The production chose to stay relatively true to the original play, staging the performance in a similar style to that of the 1895 Oscar Wilde performance, with the costumes and dialogue emulating the late Victorian style, a choice which I personally enjoyed and respected – after all why tamper with a classic?!

It must be hard to make your mark on a play which everybody knows: a farcical comedy following the story of Jack, who falls head-over-heels in love with his friend Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen. However, in order to marry Gwendolen Jack must convince her mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell, that he is an appropriate suitor. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, given that Jack was abandoned as a baby and left in a handbag at Victoria Station!

The best known line in the play, which the whole audience is waiting for, comes when Jack reveals to Lady Bracknell how he started life. “A handbag!?” she exclaims in horror – now one of the most iconic lines in theatre history. However, in this production Lady Bracknell responds quietly, with her facial expressions conveying her disgust. This was a clever move, confounding expectations.

The play really took off in the second half for me. Despite the second act being almost twice as long as the first, time appeared to fly by, partly due to the introduction of Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble to the story. Jo Ashe and Dean Harris stole the show with their portrayal of these two characters, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention post-interval. Harris in particular brought in laughs even when he wasn’t speaking, from his reaction to other characters’  dialogue. His shivering and utterance of “brrrr” when the other characters were discussing cold chills was a particular highlight for me.

The cast kept the audience fully engaged throughout, not only with their line-delivery but with the breaking of the fourth wall to give bemusing looks tinged with dramatic irony. Samuel Oakes’ portrayal of Algeron added a further level of excitement to the play with his charming yet cheeky interpretation of the character, his exaggerated facial expressions and movement.

I would highly recommend seeing The Importance of Being Earnest, which is running until Sunday 23 June. The Tabard put on a fantastic true-to-script production of an Oscar Wilde classic, complete with tongue-in-cheek humour and excellent staging, making for an enjoyable and truly immersive viewing experience.

Chiswick Playhouse

Chiswick Playhouse

The Chiswick Play house, Previously known as The Tabard, is an intimate, studio seat theatre close to Turnham Green tube station at 2 Bath Rd, Chiswick, London W4 1LW. It opened in 1985 above the Tabard Pub, a popular and historic local landmark. It quickly built a strong reputation for new writing. Over the years the Playhouse has played a key role in the development of London Theatre, highly acclaimed for its professional work and extremely popular within the community of West London. The theatre offers a mix of plays and comedy, as many stand-up comedians find it the perfect venue to try out new material before a tour or a TV show. The Playhouse is a member of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme, offering a £4.00 discount on tickets for their main productions.

Read a profile of the Playhouse’s Managing Director here.

Watch our videos about past productions at the Chiswick Playhouse.

Lonely Planet – June 2017

In the 1980s AIDS was a killer for which there was no cure. To find out that you had HIV was to hear your death sentence. Lonely Planet is an endearing, absurdly comical and poignant tale of friendship between two gay men in an American city, whose friends are dying and who are themselves living with the fear that they themselves may test positive for the disease. Bridget Osborne met Aaron Vodovoz, the producer and one of the two actors in the play.

Montagu – May 2017

What more fitting during a general election campaign focused on political leadership, than a satire on the nature of political leadership? Montagu takes place in a field, with the protagonists as a herd of donkeys. Montagu has no interest in politics but is elected leader regardless. He resists the manipulation of ‘visionary’ rivals and becomes quite ruthless as he navigates the two key questions: “How do I stay in power” and “what will be my legacy”? The play was all horribly familiar and uncannily on the money.

The Chainsaw Manicure – May 2017

Two girls Abigail and Frances, share a flat with a distinctly odd flatmate, Gary, whose sole interests appear to be practising the trumpet and cutting things up with his chainsaw. The girls become increasingly alarmed as this madcap farce hurtles towards its calamitous ending. Bridget Osborne talks to the cast.

The Last Tycoon – October 2016

F Scott Fitzgerald’s last and unfinished novel The last Tycoon was made into a film starring Robert de Niro and has also been adapted as a play. Ruby in the Dust Theatre company presented the European premiere of the theatre version at the Tabard. Set in 1930s Hollywood the play deals with Fitzgerald’s favourite themes of love and obsession and is based on true characters. Nikki Ward met director Linnie Reedman.

Broken Strings – September 2016

Actor Steven Arnold, best known for playing Ashley Peacock in Coronation Street, found out that he had been nominated for an ‘Offie’, an Off West End award, for best male actor in Broken Strings, while he was being interviewed by The Chiswick Calendar. His character David finds himself living with his mother in law after his wife Susan dies. He promised her that he would look after her mother Rose, played by another recognisable face from TV drama, Linda Clark. He told Bridget Osborne that he was delighted to have been nominated, especially as he had never trained as a stage actor.

The Superhero – July 2016

Due to a climatic crisis Earth has been plunged into an ice age, nature is out of whack and London is chaos. As mammoths and penguins roam the streets, humans of the rare blood type AB minus have evolved into Superheroes with a vow to protect the vulnerable. Amongst this cold, harsh and irrevocably dangerous environment, fourteen year old Kate falls in love with one such Superhero only to find he is not quite what he seems…. The Playwright Sophie Swithinbank spoke to Dougie Critchley to give the lowdown on this dark comedy with a 21st Century twist.

Walter & Lenny – June 2016

In 1963 the Dean of Chichester Cathedral Dr Walter Hussey wrote to the internationally famous composer Leonard Bernstein to ask if he would write something for the Chichester Festival. The resulting friendship between the cleric and the composer of West Side Story produced the now famous Chichester Psalms and more than 50 years later, inspired the creation of a one man play by Peter McEnery, based on the correspondence between the two men. Peter, who was a founder member of the Royal Shakespeare Company under Sir Peter Hall, was directed by his wife Julia St John. They spoke to Bridget Osborne about the London premier of the play at the Bedford Park Festival and the letters which inspired it.

Sherlock Holmes and The Invisible Thing

Critically acclaimed team Greg Freeman and Ken McClymont returned to the the Tabard Theatre for a brand new tale of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective saga. A perplexed Inspector Peacock summons Holmes and Watson to the home of Miss Lucy Grendle, the daughter of the late Alfred Grendle, a man who had a somewhat murky past. Miss Lucy Grendle has a problem with vodka… and Sherlock Holmes. Their paths have crossed before and it did not end well. Tension is in the air and it is not just because a murderous Invisible Thing is prowling the house. As the night unfolds, amidst a lethal concoction of a cadaver, origami and alcohol… Sherlock Holmes finally meets his match.

Wastwater – May 2016

The company which performed the highly successful ‘Bluebird’ at the Tabard in 2015 returned with another of Simon Stephens’ plays. Wastwater presents three separate vignettes of relationships linked by the characters. Set near Heathrow, the first scenario witnesses the awkward goodbyes of a foster mother and son who is leaving for Canada. The second is about an illicit affair and the third about an illegal adoption. All the characters are facing huge upheaval in their lives and are going through emotional turmoil. The emotions range from dark humour through desire and pain to terror. The cast included Mark Griffin, who was Trojan in the ’90s TV series Gladiators.

A Flea in her Ear – April 2016

A gloriously mad farce by the undisputed master of French farce, Georges Feydeau. Raymonde Chandebise sends a letter from a ‘secret’ admirer suggesting a romantic rendezvous at a local hotel in order to test her husband’s fidelity. What follows is a string of mix-ups involving suspicious spouses, hotel liaisons, crossed wires and slapstick comedy.

The Young Visiters – March 2016

Written by nine year old Daisy Ashford (hence the spelling mistake) and published by J. M. Barrie, The Young Visiters has been cult viewing since it was published in 1919. Though her spelling might be faulty, Ashford’s eye for adult absurdity and her comic timing were spot on. High japes and fake flowers, balls and boats, ice creams and princes – a child’s-eye view of what fools grown-ups make of themselves when social-climbing, falling in love and just generally getting by.

Sigurd the Dragon Slayer – December 2015

The 2015 Christmas production at the Tabard told the story of a young Viking prince Sigurd as he set off on an adventure fraught with peril. A compelling story for children of all ages with music, dance and puppets.

The Drunken City – December 2015

An encounter with a handsome stranger causes havoc on a hen night. Fuelled with drink and egged on by her bridesmaids, the bride starts to consider whether marriage is such a good idea. Director Vik Sivalingham told The Chiswick Calendar that Canadian writer Adam Bock’s play makes us all consider what happiness means to us.

Proof – September 2015

Proof is an award winning play by an award winning playwright. Author David Auburn won a Pulitzer Prize and the play won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2001. It’s about Catherine, a 25 year old woman who is looking after her brilliant mathematician father Robert, who’s losing his mind. As she grieves for him she has to contend with her controlling sister who jets in from New York and takes over, and her father’s former student, intent on searching her father’s notebooks in the hope of finding a new mathematical proof. Moving, funny and life-affirming.

Simpatico – September 2015

Simpatico is a play seething with resentment and revenge. Written by the hugely prolific American playwright Sam Shepard (award winning actor, film director and writer of some 50 plays) it’s classic Film Noir Americana. Director Will Birch tokd Nick Raikes about the play, which opens with a falling out amongst thieves.

Bruises – August 2015

Nadia Cavelle’s debut play ‘Bruises’ follows the lives of two best friends, and explored the topic of sex work. The Chiswick Calendar’s Nick Raikes spoke to writer, Nadia Cavelle and cast member, Eva-Jane Willis.

Shakespeare’s R&J – June 2015

After outstanding reviews in Stratford-upon-Avon, ‘Shakespeare’s R&J’, came to Chiswick. Director Christopher Harvey spoke to us about this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

The Tabard celebrates 30 years

Managing Director of the Tabard Theatre Simon Reilly talking to The Chiswick Calendar at the 2015 Bedford Park Festival Green Days weekend – June 2015. The Tabard Theatre notched up 30 years of entertaining Chiswickians in 2015. The theatre is part of the cultural landscape of Chiswick and always takes part in the Bedford Park Festival. We spoke to Simon Reilly at his stall during the Green Days weekend.

Fondly Remembered – June 2015

As part of the Bedford Park Festival, Fondly Remembered, a very funny new play by Gareth Armstrong, was be performed at the Tabard Theatre by a group of actors who live in Chiswick and between them have notched up nearly 250 years (and it’s a small cast!) of experience in TV and theatre – everything from Z Cars to Shakespeare. How fitting that the play is about the ageing members of a theatre company getting back together to plan the memorial service of one of their colleagues, unearthing as they do rivalries and jealousies that go back fifty years.

Bluebird – May 2015

Bluebird follows Jimmy, a mini cab driver, over the course of one night in London, exploring the city’s A-roads, back alleys and the lives that dwell around them. Jimmy listens as his ‘fares’ tell their individual stories in the back of his Nissan Bluebird. He hears from a father mourning the murder of his daughter, a bouncer’s memory of a violent night at his club, a disillusioned engineer of London’s underground, as well as, finally, Jimmy’s estranged wife Claire. Because as it turns out, Jimmy’s own is the darkest story of all. Bluebird’s writer Simon Stephens is most famous for his play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for which he won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2013. Selina Giles, producer and the actor who plays Jimmy’s estranged wife in Bluebird, talked to Bridget Osborne about the production.

Wilde Without The Boy – April 2015

Gerard Logan is an RSC actor and Olivier nominee who in 2011 won the Edinburgh Festival’s award for Best Solo Show. He teamed up with the same director, Gareth Armstrong, to present another solo show: two one act plays surrounding the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. “Wilde Without the Boy” is a dramatization of “De Profundis”, the bitterly passionate letter Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, from his cell in Reading gaol. “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” is Wilde’s is a poem narrating the execution of Charles Thomas Wooldridge. Gerard Logan told The Chiswick Calendar’s Nick Raikes why he found Oscar Wilde “inspiring” and his work “incredibly moving”.

Blush of Dogs – March 2015

A series of vicious civil wars has ended. A small city state half way across the world rebuilds itself in the ashes. The victorious King exiles his rival to the throne, his own brother, to a remote land far from the kingdom. The Queen, lover of her husband’s brother, raises in his absence the 3 young daughters he abandoned on his journey as she represses the love she harbours for the banished prince. The Fragen Theatre Company presented a new version of an ancient Greek story. Artistic director Roland Reynolds talked to The Chiswick Calendar and wondered if it might all be a bit much for leafy Chiswick.

Time of My Life – March 2015

Actor John Pickard talked to The Chiswick Calendar about Alan Ayckbourn’s play Time of My Life. Known best from TV roles in Hollyoaks and 2 point 4 Children, he played the elder son in this production, trying to keep the family business going and struggling to keep his marriage. Recorded in rehearsal, with the actors improvising the scenes.

The Lost Happy Endings – December 2014

The Tabard’s Christmas show was an adaptation of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s book The Lost Happy Endings, which incorporates traditional fairy stories within the framework of a new fairy tale. Nick Raikes talked to the actors in the fabulous forest set, designed by Lily Faith Knight. Original music by Mark Webber.

Sheltered – November 2014

An act of charity or something more sinister? A family invite a homeless person to Christmas lunch. This new play by a new playwright was inspired by a character Chiswick residents walked past under the railway bridge every day. Writer Greg A Smith talks about Sheltered.