Formerly London's chintziest theatre, the Orange Tree is now one of its hippest
Starting life as a lunchtime pub venue in Richmond in 1971, the Orange Tree Theatre graduated to a bigger, 170-seat space across the road in the early ’90s, with a permanently in-the-round set up. Founder Sam Waters, who ran the theatre for 42 years, deserves an enormous amount of credit, and in its day the theatre gave a leg-up to everyone from Martin Crimp to Sean Holmes.
However, the later days of Waters's reign saw the Orange Tree become rather moribund, with a programme based upon revivals of obscure period dramas that played well with the loyal, elderly audience but seriously lacked diversity, and probably played a large amount in the Arts Council scrapping all funding to the theatre.
This turned out to be a mistake that will surely be reversed, as his successor Paul Miller has completely turned the theatre around, with a programme that still makes the odd nod to the period works of the past, but combines it with a formidable commitment to new writing and reaching out to younger and more diverse audiences. Alistair McDowell's mad dystopian thriller 'Pomona' scored acres of acclaim and tranferred to the National Theatre, sealing the theatre's resurrection.
In 2016 the Arts Council awarded the Orange Tree £75,000 in funding.
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How do you deal with slavery as a black American playwright? Take someone else’s play, and play with it. Problematise it. Take the piss out of it. Take the piss out of the idea, too, of a ‘black playwright’ being constantly expected to confront race issues....Drama Until Saturday June 24 2017
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