Entertainment News

  • 22 January 2014, 12:40

Theatre To Open Inside Historic Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark has survived the battering of ocean waves, ferocious storms and a raging fire - but there is to be yet more drama on board the world's sole remaining tea clipper, with the opening of a new studio theatre.

The intimate performance space will sit in the ship's lower hold where once cargo would have been stacked for voyages across the world in the 1800s.

The 85-seat venue has been named the Michael Edwards Studio Theatre in honour of the West End theatre producer who funded its installation and contributed 1.3m to the Cutty Sark conservation project, which began in 2006.

He told Sky News: "With a moveable stage platform, this venue will revert back to being part of the museum during the day. It is not there in isolation - it's there to enhance the profile and reputation of the Cutty Sark.

"You might think it's going to be a claustrophobic cargo deck, but it's not. It's a versatile space that has a backdrop like no other in the world with original wood and timber work from 1869."

Cabaret, comedy, music and drama will all be performed there, either "in the round" or on a "thrust stage", which has the audience seated on three sides.

The opening of the studio theatre will be marked by a fortnight of special performances from January 29, with acts including Alan Davies, Griff Rhys Jones and Ross Noble.

"It is very exciting to be performing improvisation comedy on board the Cutty Sark just as the sailors would have done when she sailed the seven seas, exporting entertainment to the world," said Noble, who will play at least 10 shows on the ship.

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich, London, reopened to the public in April 2012, five years after a major fire nearly destroyed it.

Fortunately, at the time of the fire in 2007, the restoration work was already under way which meant around 50% of the ship had been removed.

Launched in 1869 from Dumbarton in Scotland, the Cutty Sark visited most ports around the world, transporting everything from fine teas to gunpowder, whisky to buffalo horns.

She made her name as the fastest ship of her era during her time in the wool trade.

The Cutty Sark now sits 11ft in the air and visitors can walk underneath the vessel and view the lines of her hull and the innovative design which enabled her to reach the record speed of 20mph from Sydney to London.

Speaking at the launch of the new studio theatre Richard Doughty, director of the Cutty Sark Trust, said: "This project will probably do little more than break even.

"The rationale is about ensuring different generations can experience Cutty Sark in their own ways.

"We've had 600,000 visitors since April 2012, the majority of whom are families, schools, tourists and older generations. Hopefully this will do more to appeal to younger age groups, teenagers, adolescents.

"We're not having trouble selling tickets so I think this is going to become part of the business model for the Cutty Sark."

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