ALMEIDA VISIT AND OTHER WONDROUS THINGS
by Jez Bond
Meetings all day from 9am on site. Digital signage companies all seem to be saying different things, which is a real headache. Then Theo a freelance sound designer, who is very kindly designing our audio infrastructure with Orbital, had a look round and started chatting through the spec.
Finally in the afternoon we visited some more venues. Our first stop was the new Caponata/Forge in Camden, a private scheme that combines a restaurant with a small performance venue, predominantly for live music.
We then headed to Islington for the much anticipated tour of the Almeida. Shown around by Mark Foley, the architect of the theatre since its inception, and Jason, the technical manager who has been with the company since before the 2003 refurbishment, we got a real insight into this gem of a ‘found space’. Whilst our brief for the circle design at The Park included eliminating vertical columns that might extend up or down into the auditorium, Mark Foley fought very hard at the Almeida to retain their columns as they provide an important design element, which is very evident – the columns literally hug the space, drawing the stalls and circle together as one. So interesting how different things work in different spaces. The substage with its traps and storage was impressive and out of the twenty something tours we have now been on, the green room has to be the nicest we’ve seen. Like us the Almeida are also constrained by having front access only and therefore have to do the get-ins through the public front of house area.
In the late afternoon we headed into Shoreditch for Martin’s bar crawl – we popped into various drinking establishments of interest, some chic, some shabby chic, some modern, some ultra cool. We started to discuss the detail of the feel of our cafe bars and the relationship between the two levels. As a functioning theatre bar, a daytime cafe and, ideally, an evening bar in its own right too, it is very important to get the design absolutely right. And no we didn’t end up on the floor at 11pm. In fact we were all home by 6.30pm. A completely sober bar crawl, now that’s something completely different!