Artistic director says she will make Kiln theatre accessible to all
Former Tricycle in Kilburn re-opens after £7.5 million refit
13 September, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
Daon Broni and Claire Goose star in Holy Sh!t at the Kiln Theatre [Pic: Mark Douet]
THE artistic director of the rebranded Kiln theatre says she is determined to make the arts centre accessible to all after its £7.5million refit.
Indhu Rubasingham was speaking as the theatre in Kilburn High Road, Kilburn, officially reopened its doors on Monday evening. It follows a two-year project which has seen the venue change its name from the Tricycle, a decision which has been opposed by its original founder and protesters who gathered with placards outside.
Ms Rubasingham said: “It has been pretty insane trying to get the building up and running. The team have busted their guts to get ready. Their belief in this has been phenomenal. We are a small team and we need to fundraise to survive as well as for capital expenditure, and it has been a strain.”
The theatre has a long history of staging challenging and ground-breaking plays, drawing stellar casts to Kilburn.
Ms Rubasingham added: “At one point I thought: I just want to direct plays, let’s leave it for others to do in the future. But I do not know if the theatre would have been able to survive if we hadn’t, and that helped spur us on. Everything has been about making it a better version of ourselves.”
She led a press tour of the new facilities before the audience arrived to see Holy Sh*t, the first production at the Kiln. We reported last week how the New Journal had been told by the venue that it would not be “extending an invitation” to the launch events after it was said we had published “multiple negative stories” about the name change.
But late last week we were welcomed to see inside and review the play. While national newspaper critics had different opinions about what was on the stage, all praised the building work that has transformed a former guildhall, built in 1929, into a state-of-the-art off-West End theatre.
The new auditorium, which has seen the floor lowered and false walls and ceilings stripped back to show the hall’s original cornicing, has created room for 60 more seats including extra space for partially abled people. In the past, wheelchair users had to book in advance and the staff would remove a section of benches. Now, access is permanent.
Ms Rubasingham said: “The previous bench-style seating was quite narrow and lacked leg room. We spent a lot of time thinking about the seats. We had them specially designed for the Kiln and we feel they are a mixture between the Everyman and the Dorfman.”
She added that sight lines to the stage had been improved and a new lighting rig and control installed. Ticket prices have risen, with the most expensive available now costing £32.50 – up from £28 – but the Kiln said its research shows this is comparable with seat prices at other off West End theatres which come in around the £40 mark. The cheapest available is £10.
Ms Rubasingham added: “We were determined to keep the prices as low as we could. Of course, there could have been a pressure to put them up to reflect the costs of other similar theatres and to mark the reopening, but we want to keep the theatre accessible.”
Away from the auditorium, work has been done to upgrade the entrance on Kilburn High Road, with a new café where there was once offices, and a new foyer area.
Ms Rubasingham added: “People called the theatre a hidden gem. I didn’t want it to be a hidden gem, I wanted it to be an open and accessible gem – and that is what this work has done.”
Protesters continue battle against Tricycle name change
AROUND 100 protesters led a picket outside the Kiln theatre on Monday night, calling on the management board to reverse their decision to scrap the name the Tricycle and replace it with the Kiln.
Those opposed to the name change have frequently claimed that the theatre have been slow to discuss with regulars why they felt it was necessary to drop a name which had global reach.
A swathe of senior industry figures – including Tricycle founder Ken Chubb, former Tricycle artistic director Nicholas Kent and 12 former board members – have supported the protest.
A statement from the Our Tricycle campaign said: “Would you throw away a valuable brand with such an illustrious heritage and outstanding reputation without serious research and careful consideration? Of course not. We are determined to reverse this decision. It isn’t just that we don’t like the name Kiln. The Tricycle stood for something around here and far beyond. It was rooted in its community and received generous funding from public money – your money, and support.”
It added: “It was the Tricycle name which was the basis of this funding, not Kiln – a name change announced only after funds were granted. The new name continues the drift from its community, severing the connection with what made the Tricycle special. This is public money given to an unaccountable, private company.”
The Kiln say they consulted stakeholders and conducted opinion poll-style research with people in the Kilburn area before embarking on the rebrand.