The head of Polka Theatre emphasised the importance of community theatre following the opening of the venue’s new show ‘Chocolate Cake’ on Friday March 23.
This new musical is a multimedia adaptation of Michael Rosen’s poem that follows the adventures of two brothers and the night-time disappearance of a chocolate cake.
For artistic director Peter Glanville, this is one of many exciting recent advances for the theatre, with an increased focus on young people and a venue development currently underway.
On ‘Chocolate Cake,’ Glanville said: “In real time the poem can be read in five minutes but the real challenge came with extending it to a full musical.
“Chocolate Cake is a fantastic poem that has over 4million views on YouTube and we have built a narrative for the show by using not only that poem but by using six of Rosen’s other pieces of work.”
He added: “This allows us to tell the story of the children through the day as well as tapping into some of his other amazing work.
“It really helps to highlight the imagination of the actors playing the children and appeals to a young audience as technology is so present these days.”
Before joining Polka Theatre in 2013, Glanville was artistic director and chief executive at the Little Angel Theatre, Islington, for eight years, and is now responsible for the overall artistic program at the Wimbledon venue.
Not only does this involve working out what shows to bring in and what shows to produce in-house, but also filling the two theatre spaces, managing its theatre company, heading up the theatre’s redevelopment and working closely with the staff, public and creatives that come in.
Glanville said: “”It is a joy to work here, both working with the staff and also working so closely with children. “We are one of the only solely children’s theatres in the country and we attract not only a local audience but those visiting London and even families visiting the UK.”
Polka Theatre will be celebrating its 40th year next year, and prides itself on making theatre accessible for all.
Bridging the gap between West End show and community theatre, Glanville is passionate about Polka Theatre and its importance to not only London but to a smaller community.
He said: “Although we attract a wide audience, the majority of our audiences are local to the south London area as we are on their doorstep.
“We have grandparents who come to shows with their grandchildren and recount stories of when they attended the theatre as children.”
As well as having their own theatre company, Early Years Theatre, they develop two productions in-house a year and have a young voices panel.
He said: “The panel is a diverse group of young people who come together regularly.
“They get the opportunity to influence how Polka Theatre runs, tell us what they want to see, what they think of the facilities and what they think of whatever show is on at that moment.”
The theatre is about to undergo a major redevelopment, Future Polka, which they are currently fundraising for.
The theatre has had 3.5million visitors since it opened in 1979 and they are in the process of raising £6.5million through funding and donations to make sure it continues to attract big audiences in the future.
Glanville said: “This will give us the opportunity to redevelop Polka Theatre as a unique place of inspiration for children, artists and our local community.
“We want to continue to inspire future generations and attract a wide audience for many more years.”