How Small Can a Theatre Be?
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What is the smallest theatre? Is it a dingy black box studio space? Is it a tiny venue above a pub? Is it your mates tin shed in the back of his garden charging two quid to let you watch paint dry? No, what we're talking about is quite literally the Smallest Theatre in the World. This tiny 'venue' sqeezes it's audience into the side car of a Royal Enfield motor bike... not only that, it is one of the most iconic and ground breaking pieces of street theatre ever made.
Created by Marcel Steiner after Ken Campbell took one look at his bike and said, “you could build a theatre on that”. This tiny bike rose the bar for theatricality and silliness in British street theatre, being the first act to perform on the Convent Garden street pitch at a time when theatre was brought back in the 1970s.
Subverting and making fun of Britain’s theatre tradition with renditions of Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays, pushing street theatre with a mix of classic gags and putting something on the street which had never been there before. The Smallest Theatre went on to perform world wide, had the likes of Meryl Streep in the audience and started the career of Sylvester MacCoy.
Marcel ran the Smallest Theatre up until his death in 1999. Sixteen years later the theatre is in the hands of street theatre legends The Grand Theatre of Lemmings. Dave Rose Co-artistic director cut his teeth in the smallest theatre and now he along with Mandy and Pat have created a new street show which both respects and honours the history of the Smallest Theatre but also updates it for a current audience.
As a company we cannot help but feel influenced by the Smallest Theatre. Steeped in British popular theatre tradition it brings silliness and fun to people on the street. Bunging two people into a tiny box to be man handled by a massive gorilla arm on a back drop of a busy street really is an inspiration.
The Lemmings don’t want to stop at entertaining us over here. They are taking it to India. They are heading to the Royal Enfield factory in Chennai to buy a new bike and work closely with local craftsmen to create a new Indian style theatre. Then they plan to hit the road, working with street children, orphanages, local theatre companies, street art festivals and anyone else along the way for a skills and culture exchange. Ending their journey at The Russ foundation Orphanage in Madurai. They will stay for a week, work with the children to produce a show with them that they all perform at a celebration on the final day.
The trip sounds like a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved, but they are going to need all the help they can get to make this happen. They will have a crowd funding page set up soon. We are going to be helping and we urge you to do the same. We have had the Smallest Theatre here for 30 odd years, let’s help it go and entertain some other people now. We will be posting the fundraising page when it is launched. Time to give the smallest theatre the greatest trip.