Three-and-a-half years ago, one of London’s most beloved theatres, Battersea Arts Centre, was part-consumed by fire, and the iconic Victorian building’s Grand Hall – as popular a destination for weddings as theatre shows – was destroyed.
Fortunately, it had insurance. Although BAC’s other performance spaces have been in constant operation since the blaze, next month marks the formal return of its biggest one. And the Grand Hall is more impressive than ever: the floor’s been restored and a high-tech, Victorian-style ceiling has been installed. Most strikingly, the fire damage on the walls has been retained ‘as found’.
Almost more exciting, though, is the work that will accompany it: not only does the so-called ‘Phoenix Season’ see the Grand Hall bounce back, but the line-up of shows is the strongest BAC has boasted in years. Here are the shows that will be playing the room.
Physical theatre company Gecko’s acclaimed show ‘Missing’ wasn’t literally being performed when the Grand Hall caught fire, but it was in the middle of its run, which had to be cancelled. In its most poetic stroke, the Phoenix Season begins with a reprise of the show, which offers a trippy journey into one woman’s collapsing soul.
A big hit at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, this National Theatre of Scotland show has taken a while to make it to London, but it’s been worth waiting for. Directed by polymath Cora Bissett, ‘Adam’ is the gripping true story of a young Egyptian trans man’s departure from his home country, leaving behind a comfy upbringing for a new start in Scotland. The show is performed by the man himself, Adam Kashmiry.
Gloriously mercurial performance artist Bryony Kimmings has been something of a serial collaborator in recent years, but now she’s back with her first solo show in seven years. Aside from (sort of) lending the new BAC season its name, ‘I’m a Phoenix, Bitch!’ sees Kimmings address the dark year she had following the birth of her child. We’re promised personal stories plus ‘epic film, soundscapes and ethereal music’.
The Anglo-Irish company Dead Centre are one of our most exciting theatre collectives, but international demand and the large scale of their work has meant that their shows have barely been seen in London. ‘Chekhov’s First Play’ is an epic deconstruction of both Chekhov’s ‘Platonov’ and the very act of making theatre, and we should all be jolly excited to finally get the chance to see it.
Oct 31-Nov 10.
In this world premiere from Lekan Lewal, a young man creates a graphic novel in order to share some big news: he can fly. A multi-genre formal mash-up of myth, pop culture and comic book visuals, ‘Superblackman’ explores mental health and minority representation. It will be followed on Friday and Saturday nights by ‘Superblackman Lates’, a party into the early hours that will offer an ‘audiovisual mixtape’ inspired by the show.
Nov 16-Dec 1.
See full Battersea Arts Centre listings here.