On Saturday 5th November we hosted a closing 'demolition' party at the Shop Front Theatre to mark the Shop's closure. This included brand new commissions from some of our long-term artist collaborators.
As part of our Humanistan commissions for the Shop Front Theatre, we posed a final provocation to a selection of artists we have worked with over the years. The artists produced new works especially for our Closing ‘Demolition’ Party, launching our archive publication and marking the closure of the Shop Front Theatre after 13 years. These incredibly moving and reflective pieces were therefore the final performances to take place in the space. The artists were Kim Hackleman, Shahnaz Akhter and Navkiran Kaur Mann, Marius Mates and Jay Holder, Ola Animashawun and Derek Nisbet.
You can discover some of the works below on this page – with links to the full pieces at the end of each excerpt. More of the works will be added to this page over time.
All photography by Andrew Moore.
Final Call at The Shop Front Theatre
by Derek Nisbet
Chris writes: “It was an emotional moment to watch and hear Derek Nisbet play this piece at the closure of the Shop Front Theatre in November 2022. He was the last ever performer there. Dez has been a long time collaborator with Theatre Absolute over the years, his talents are many, but what always shines through in his work is his special human-ness, it feels as if he has poured parts of himself into the work he creates. Have a listen for yourself, as his composition, specially commissioned by Theatre Absolute for the occasion, resonates both with sadness and joy, seamlessly weaving a pathway between the two.”
Listen to the recording below and watch the live performance filmed by Alan Van Wijgerden here.
Huddling Together in this Special Space
by Kim Hackleman
Hi, my name is Kim Hackleman and I am, among many other things, a writer and an American.
I wrote ‘Weaving Coventry’, which can be found in granite relief in the water rills in the upper precinct.
That would have never happened were it not for Julia, Chris and the Shop Front Theatre.
This is a love note to this special space.
This is a super hero action movie with Chris and Julia as the dream team surrounded by an all-star cast.
This is a three-act play called Huddling Together in this Cave.
And this is also the story of me losing my voice and starting to get it back one small step at a time with help from our friends:
I find story structure a fascinating thing and feel that most of our western storytelling is being held captive by Aristotle’s assertions in his work the Poetics. This is made more problematic by the fact that at some point during antiquity, the original text was divided into two parts, each written on a separate roll of papyrus, with only the first part surviving. The focus of this first part? Tragedy. Comedy being the theme of the lost second part.
The three-act narrative structure, based on the Aristotelian idea of stories having a beginning, mid- dle and an end, according to some, is essential because it helps anchor your story and ensures that you don’t lose sight of what you’re doing. Which at times I find misleading as a model for living, as I don’t know about you, but I seem to loose sight of what I am doing quite often.
If it doesn’t have a beginning, we are told, the audience may lack context for the rest of the story. They may lack empathy for and understanding of the characters, especially the protagonist.
So, I move on to the three-act play: Huddling Together in this Cave, with fingers-crossed, hoping that together we can keep ahold of the thread that binds us through to the end, no matter how often it might seem I loose my way:
Read full piece here.
Broken Arcade Dreams
by Navkiran Kaur Mann and Shahnaz Akhter
The pigeons come and roost in the crevices
The spikes don’t put them off
They look at them in disdain
Looking down on those who think they don’t
Deserve a place in the arcade
A light flickers to reveal the flaking facade,
Neglect, austerity, the tory years
Communities built and lost,
This Arcades seen it all
Up and down the narrow gallery
Of little shops providing humanity
Everything from weaves, beauty treatments to childcare
Flowers, booze, coffee and batches and rehab.
Walk through hearing the memories of those
Who walked here before
Echoes of laughter and despair,
Smile at the couple buying their ring
Break your heart for the family that can’t get by
Tucked away in what was Fishy Moores Sits the Shop Front Theatre for 13 years Holding space for people
To be held, to experience intimacy
In plays, poetry and stories.
Come all ye artists, reflect this city,
Share your vision in a rearranged space
Catch the eye of the stranger looking in
Your stories connect in a glance.
Like the glance, this too is temporary
Read the full piece here.
by Ola Animashawun
Begin – start speaking into the mike – miming the words with confidence, but nothing can be heard.
I’m sorry, I was on mute…..you’d’ve thought after all this time….anyway….
Hello, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ola, though when I was at school everyone called me Ola – ‘cos it’s spelled, O..L..A…only one L…so it could be misleading but it’s a Nigerian name and we’re famously efficient and direct – hence Ola…..why waste consonants, time and breath?….if it helps to try and remember the pronuciation…. it rhymes with scholar….but those of you who do know me, you’ll know that’s just a coincidence.
A scholar I may not be, but I am proud of my comprehensive school education….and despite the recent antics of one famously former comp pupil, I am still proud. Thank you Liz Truss, you set the campaign for the abolition of public schools back by about 100 years. Nice work…and in so short a time.
Mind you, if anyone had come up to me while I was at school and said “one day you’ll be Prime Minister” I’d ‘ve called them out for blatant racial profiling. I was more ambitious than that when I was at school.
I knew I was going to make something of myself. I was intent on changing the world for the better. So there was only one job for me – I was going to go into theatre.
When I got the call from Chris and Julia asking me if I’d say a few words tonight, at their closing demolition party – straight away I texted them back saying I was ‘up for it‘ – I leapt off my lounger, packed a bag and sped back from the Caribbean…..well Brixton…and I jumped on my London Northwestern train which was only delayed by a mere 24 hours due to a staff shortage…in Westminster….apparently the Transport Minister keeps failing to turn up for work.
Although I easily wrote the 100 minutes of material necessary to qualify for this party – in the interests of the nation I’ve agreed to limit my words to just 5 minutes.
Last time I was standing here, like this, I was part of a show – in which I maintained that it was impossible to go back in time – though many of us craved a return to the good old days…or the…not that great but certainly a lot better than they are now days…the, mediocre but I’ll take it days – I insisted that we simply have no choice but to keep on…keeping on…like ants on a sugar trail, or people who watch Love Island….unquestioningly forging ahead into the abyss…..
However, it would seem that there’s nothing like a Tory with a huge majority to prove a person wrong….like, really wrong….more wrong in fact, than being an active member of a Metropolitan Police WhatsApp group.
Read the full piece here.