First of its kind theatre for Coventry

Darlings ... (L-R) City council sports and arts manager David Nuttall, Theatre Absolute Artistic Director Chris O’Connell and city councillor Gary Ridley

August 22, 2009

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A CHIP shop is to be transformed into a temporary theatre in Coventry – a first of its kind for the UK.

For 18 months actors will entertain City Arcade shoppers at the former Fishy Moores chippy.

While building owners Coventry Council hope to boost business in the city, actors from Theatre Absolute are using it as a chance to introduce ‘garage theatre’ to the UK.

Artistic Director Chris O’Connell said: “I’ve just come back from America and in Chicago they do this sort of thing all the time.

“They create theatre in shops.

“Unfortunately some in this country still think of theatre as something that’s high brow and not for them.

“But this is a great chance for people to walk in and realise that theatre’s for everybody.”

Mr O’Connell approached the council after noticing how many shops were being closed as the credit crunch bites.

Across the city more than 60 stores are empty and in City Arcade alone at least six of the 40 shops are unoccupied.

Mr O’Connell said: “Creating a shop front theatre was imagined first and foremost as a cultural provocation to the city, we are diverse and prolific in the range of artists living and working in Coventry.

“The city has always been renowned for its creativity and innovation, and as the region and the nation endure a time of recession, it’s an opportune moment to re-think the role the arts can play in regenerating and revitalising the city centre.”

He added that his company would be seeking cash from The Arts Council and other bodies to fund the project – although its full cost is not yet known.

Coventry City Council has agreed to forego rent for the 18 months the shop is used as a theatre.

Cllr Gary Ridley, cabinet member for city development said, “This idea of live, shop front theatre is very exciting and typically creative for Coventry and has the potential to attract lots of people to City Arcade and the rest of the city centre.

“There is no doubt that this is a difficult time, but we are doing what we can to try and support businesses and keep the city centre open for business, welcoming to shoppers and attractive to potential new traders.”

And the move appears to have been welcomed by traders.

Girish Parekh, owner of the Coventry Computer Centre and chairman of the Greyfriars Walk association, said:

“To be honest we’d prefer a business was moved into the premise.

“But as long as it is attracting shoppers into the area it’s got to be better than having an empty shop.”

Theatre Absolute plans to put on at least three productions at the shop as well as hosting writing classes.

Shows will start in December.

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