World Theatre Day: 47 things I love about going to the theatre
Lockdown London theatre walks: Bridge Theatre and a conversion to the groundling experience

Lockdown London theatre walks: Arcola Theatre - memory of a famous Friend and a friendship

When I think of the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, two things immediately spring to mind. The first involves a famous Friend, the second a friend.

Arcola Theatre Apr 2021
Arcola Theatre in lockdown April 2021

The famous Friend was Rupert Friend, and he was in the Dennis Potter play, Brimstone and Treacle, in the studio space.

It was dark, humourous, and at times uncomfortable play to watch. The play has a domestic setting, but the protagonist Martin (played by Friend) breaks the fourth wall, making asides and direct eye contact with the audience.

Martin is the sort of character written and performed to bring the audience into his confidence while simultaneously making you feel that confidence could be misplaced at any time.

The studio space is small, so proximity to Martin and the sense that something isn't quite right makes that moment when he does catch your eye an all the more uncomfortable experience.

Dangerous stare

Particularly when you are sat on the front row, his head snaps around suddenly, and he fixes you with a dangerous stare, holding your gaze for what seems like an age.

It certainly wasn't for just a moment.

What also makes it memorable is that the character was a real departure for Rupert Friend. I'd seen him in costume dramas on screen, and in the Little Dog Laughed on stage which was a little boring.

As Martin, he certainly wasn't boring. And he's since gone on to clock up a really interesting range of roles.

But the memory of him as Martin and that stare has stayed with me for nearly nine years.

The 'friend' memory is a little more recent.

On February 19, 2018, I had a press ticket to see Napoleon Disrobed on the Main Stage at the Arcola, but I wasn't sure whether I was going to go.

Head not in the right place

My head was all over the place because that morning, I'd gone to work as normal, and in the afternoon, I walked out on consultation for redundancy after 20 years with the company.

In the end, I decided to go to the theatre, thought the distraction and a bit of 'normality' might be a good thing.

And I'm so glad I did because, at the theatre, I was sat next to another blogger, Maryam - @culturalcapital - who I'd not met before. We got chatting and have become friends.

In fact, Maryam has joined me on pretty much all of my lockdown theatre walks. Our stroll to the Arcola has been the furthest we've gone on foot - so far - so we had plenty of time for theatre chat en route.

Have you got an Arcola Theatre visit memory you want to share?

The reviews:

Brimstone and Treacle

Napoleon Disrobed