As Arcola Theatre’s move draws closer, its artistic director muses on its future, the fundraising appeal so far, and the secrets of its success. The Hackney Citizen’s two previous discussions with Arcola members tracked progress of their appeal. Now, as the days count down, momentum is building as preparations are being made to transfer to their new home in Dalston’s Ashwin Street.
Mehmet Ergen urges Hackney residents to take advantage of the theatre’s swansong in their current premises where their two final productions, Gandhi and Coconuts and The Cradle Will Rock are soon closing. “If anyone hasn’t been to the Arcola, 18 December is their last chance, so they should come down,” he said. “That’ll be our final curtain, and I know it will be special.”
Quite unlike the image of a captain going down with his ship, Ergen and his company have their new premises firmly secured. Ergen acknowledges that there are sceptics when it comes to their plans, and understands the fondness that many feel towards the current Arcola Street theatre. However, the response to their open public appeal has managed to see them through.
“Of course there are people who will miss the old building, and no matter what you do, there are sceptics everywhere you go. But the improvements are undeniable – from the doubled height of the ceiling, the huge step-up in size and quality of the rehearsal spaces, the bigger seating capacity – we’re moving into a marvellous space. If there are any doom-mongerers remaining, there were some cumbersome pillars in our last theatre. There are none in the new building. Surely, no one can argue with that as a basic progression?”
When asked how the appeal is going and if it’s on schedule, Ergen comments that its progress seems as dramatic as any theatrical endeavour. “It changes daily. The days are counting down now, so it’s feeling vey final, but there’s times when we look around and think, shall we just pick up some sledgehammers ourselves?” However changeable and difficult the process, Ergen is convinced that this move will enable the Arcola to continue to provide the type of innovative, and experimental theatre they have been producing for the last 10 years.
“It’s a great pleasure to put on plays that appeal to people. This is always our aim. We are also trying to surprise people. We always strive for difference so people can see a play and think, ‘Where would we see this, but the Arcola?’”
When asked how the Arcola plans to continue its success, Ergen puts it simply: “Whatever we’ve done for the past ten years, we’ll continue to do that. And try to better that.”