The Haywood Studio Theatre

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Regular patrons of the main house of the Little Theatre may not be aware that we operate a second performing area within the theatre. Whilst the principal appeal of the theatre is the varied range of main stage productions, we also offer a small number of productions in the Studio, a ‘black box’ located at the rear of the theatre.

Named after Moyra Haywood, a stalwart of the theatre who devoted herself to keeping the theatre open during the last World War, the Haywood Studio has been used for a number of purposes over the years. In its time it has been a rehearsal room, a meeting room, a function room, a dance practice room, a storage area for costumes (before we were fortunate enough to acquire our current location) and, not least, as a Studio Theatre.

The use of the Studio as an alternative performance venue has expanded over the years and it is now regularly used to give embryo directors and actors the opportunity to show their capabilities in a compact and intimate atmosphere. With its own team of stage manager and lighting and sound designers, it offers a complete package to all comers with technical quality levels equal to those in the main house but tempered by the nature of the room itself. With only 80square metres of floor space, height restrictions and an inconveniently located column there are obviously some limitations but the Studio crew, working as a small but close knit unit, invariably deliver the goods when it comes to putting a show together.

The room accommodates an audience of up to 60 people. In the past, seating was set out on the floor and this often meant that sight lines were poor leading to a less than happy appreciation of the show. Eventually, tiered seating in the form of collapsible rostra was introduced and this dramatically altered the viewing perspective and helped to raise the profile of the Studio. Because of the size of the staging area, productions take on a much more intimate atmosphere; the cast are often only feet away from the audience and this enhances the intensity of the performance.

Because the seating options are flexible, the performing area can be located in any one of four directions or even ‘in the round’. The lighting grid in the ceiling is multi functional and sound effects can be tailored to the requirements of the individual show. Scenery tends to be semi stylised using standard black flats but, with the added use of costume, furniture and dressings, the inclusion of doors and windows and the option of a full wall projection screen, light and colour can be dramatically introduced allowing the lighting designers to change a black box into a dynamically vibrant showcase for the varied style of productions for which the Studio is now known.

Previous productions have included Macbeth, Ghosts by Ibsen, Pinter’s Betrayal, the challenging Anna Karenina (a cast of twenty seven!) and the painfully brilliant Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me. On top of this we have presented a One Act Play Festival for new directors featuring four plays in rotation, all of which had to have individual sound and lighting plots as well as concealing three of the four sets at any one time. No one can say that we shirk a challenge!

The Theatre operates a Youth Group who rehearse in the Studio and have put on a number of productions in there over the last four years but the membership of the group and the ever rising standards of performance have meant that they now have a regular spot on the main stage as well.

Whilst ticket prices are nominal, reflecting the nature of Studio productions, they do not in any way suggest an inferior product; we regularly receive praise for the high quality of production and the different but welcoming atmosphere of the venue.

Although the Studio currently has a dedicated backstage management team, we are always pleased to meet any members, new or existing, who may wish to become involved in this unique aspect of our theatre.

Collin Desborough
Studio Stage Manager