Behind The Curtain: Writing for Beckenham

In our latest Behind The Curtain blog, local playwright Alexander Vail explains why writing plays for one of the smallest stages in the country is more of a help than a hindrance…

Writing for Beckenham Theatre is as much a challenge as it is a joy. From an audience perspective, Beckenham offers an incredibly intimate experience – with only 47 seats, you are never far away from the action.

In fact, I like to think it is the theatrical equivalent of watching television in HD, when you’re that close, there is nowhere for actors to hide. This may have something to do with why Beckenham has won the Kent trophy for most inventive use for a small space so often.

As a playwright, writing for the smallest complete theatre in the UK imposes logistical limitations, but luckily, the tiny stage is incredibly versatile, with up to six entrances, a fully working fly-loft and impressive lighting capabilities, which enables creative theatre directors to achieve incredible things.

A glance around the living photo archive that lines the walls of the theatre bar shows that the stage at Beckenham has been transformed into realistic gardens, fairytale castles, urban dystopias, cathedrals, as well as rooms from houses at just about any point in history. At one point, it even featured a swimming pool!

On the upside, anything one writes with Beckenham Theatre in mind can be scaled to any other stage in the world. Alan Ayckbourn has a similar approach to writing for the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough a small stage in the round which also offers nowhere for the actors or the writer to hide.

So whether I am writing a new piece for Beckenham, or for any other commissioning theatres, I always write with this charming and challenging space in mind, because, to use¬†Sinatra’s anthem “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”.

Alexander Vail is a local playwright and author who has been a member of Beckenham Theatre for more than 25 years. For more information about his work, please visit VailPlays.co.uk or follow him on Twitter.