This year has been a roller coaster ride for our partners Only Lucky Dogs Theatre. The company has spent the last 12 months planning its first season at Portland Works and after all the ups and downs of lockdown is at last looking forward to opening in June.
“We have a fantastic season planned,” says producer Pippa Le Grand. “What really thrills me is the sheer range and variety of shows and the fact that a lot of the artists and companies are at the start of their careers. It’s important for us to play our part in helping emerging theatre-makers survive and thrive after the pandemic. We’ve done a huge amount of preparation, writing and rehearsing. We had hoped to launch in January, then again in April, but decided to wait until June so we could accommodate people in the theatre as well as live-streaming our shows.”
The season will open on June 18 with Our Mate Max, created by Dorset-based touring company Off Piste, which follows the challenges two young men face as they become adults. Each show will have a small number of tickets available to watch the performance, to enable social distancing. Live streaming tickets start at just £4.
“We’re really excited to be able to offer live streaming, which has been made possible by a grant to Portland Works from the Culture Recovery Fund,” says Pippa. “It opens up so many possibilities for new ways of making both online and live theatre. We can reach wider audiences, make theatre accessible to those who wouldn’t be able to get to us in person – and it enables us to keep costs down.”
The company is also researching how simulated virtual reality could help designers create their ideas accurately before reproducing them in the theatre. They are building an exciting virtual Makerspace that can be accessed online, which will save time and money in pre-production and help companies who are visiting from a distance plan how their ideas will work in the space.
Our Mate Max will be followed on June 24 by Dispatches on the Red Dress, an award-winning show at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival, and then on June 30 by Reclamation + Return, a special event dedicated to showcasing queer talent and perspectives. Also planned for the opening season are Dear Beryl, a dark comedy imagining a future fuelled by austerity and controlled by technology and The Dots, a new play about conspiracy theory. The season concludes on July 22-24 with Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco, a play presented by Only Lucky Dogs on the twentieth anniversary of its first performance at the National Theatre.
The five members of Only Lucky Dogs – Pippa, artistic directors James Huxtable and Michael Saliba, technical director Isabel Potter and marketing director Aaron Saint John – met at Sheffield University and started the company in 2018. They had a successful show at Edinburgh and later rented the historic Makerspace at Portland Works for a performance.
“We realised Portland Works would be a great permanent venue for the theatre. It’s not only stunningly beautiful but has an amazing history and is full of creative people making wonderful things. It’s like being part of a very special family. We even hope to have a gin bar in the courtyard for the new season, provided by our neighbours the Locksley Distillery Company.”
In February Pippa joined the volunteer board of directors at Portland Works. “It’s fascinating to see how it all works and how it contributes to the community. I feel very privileged to be involved in making decisions about such an important part of Sheffield’s history,” she says.
Tickets for the opening season are now on sale at Only Lucky Dogs Theatre.