IN terms of human years the Crucible is in no way experiencing a mid-life crisis as it hits 40.
In fact, since it was re-opened nearly two years ago following a £15million refurbishment it has arguably come of age.
But, following one of the most commercially successful productions in the Sheffield theatre’s history in Othello, how do you go about celebrating a landmark year in the life of a venue that has experienced so many landmarks?
Artistic Director Daniel Evans is the man charged with putting the creative fuel into this revived theatrical machine. And between now and next Wednesday those birthday celebrations hot up with a string of performances and events aimed at showcasing the diversity to which Crucible audiences have become accustomed as well as to further connect with the people it ultimately serves.
Central to that is Lives In Art, the ambitious first production by Sheffield People’s Theatre, from today until November 12.
Sheffield writer Richard Hurford’s play features Andrew Dunn, of TV comedy Dinnerladies, alongside 60 local actors aged between 12 and 84, a choir and a band.
Feature roles include Jean Cherry¸ a Crucible regular since the opening production in 1971, Etienne Soubes-Goldman, a previous Crucible performer and one of the younger cast members at 13, as well as performances from an entire Sheffield family.
Andrew Dunn takes the lead role of Battersby, a sceptic trying to stop the creation of art. As stories unfold, music soars and memories of love and life come rushing back, and the magic of art proves unstoppable.
Besides a Lyceum stint with tours of Dinnerladies, former Sheffield resident Andrew is no stranger to the Crucible. As a student he visited the theatre before performing there twice.
“It’s like two parallel worlds,” he says of Lives In Art. “What would have happened in 1971 if the council had decided ‘We’re not having this, it’s too expensive’ and all art basics right down to reading a book were done away with.
“My character is put in charge to make sure there is no art in this building. When it was built there were people against it. They’ve taken those sort of arguments to their nth degree.
“The second half is the parallel world celebrating 40 years of art. Without art, painting, songs, what are we? Art makes us human.
“The writer and director have taken real stories from cast members. It’s quite an epic piece and they needed someone to come in a learn these many lines. I didn’t realise how big a part it was.”
Lives In Art director Andrew Loretto says The Crucible has always been a theatre for the people of Sheffield.
“What better way to celebrate the venue’s 40th birthday than to present the first production by Sheffield People’s Theatre.
“It is great to see people of all ages and backgrounds working together with such energy and commitment to create a bold piece of new theatre for the Crucible.”
May the Forced continue to be with you
ONE company that realises the benefit of having the most significant production house outside of London based in Sheffield is Forced Entertainment.
Often scaling the more unconventional face of modern theatre, the innovative group now enjoy an international reputation.
So it was only right that Forced be part of Crucible 40 with That Night Follows Day, written by company artistic director Tim Etchells.
Performed by children but written for an adult audience, it explores how what adults say and do shape a child’s world – truths, half truths, white lies they tell, the pet names they give, the rules they put in place, and the things they wish for their children.
In this performance, however, it is the children who get to speak and the adults who listen.
“It investigates the way that adults make the world young people live in – how they’re encouraged to behave, how they are taught,” says Tim.
“It’s comical and poignant. I wrote the text a few years ago, drawing a lot on my own observations from my own kids, and from the cast of the first production in Belgium.
“What’s exciting to me about the rehearsed reading in Sheffield is it will be the first time I’ve ever heard the text in English rather than in translation. I’m really looking forward to that more direct encounter with it. I’m also really excited about the cast – we had tremendous interest for the auditions and we do have a really great, smart and energetic group of 16 performers between the ages of eight and 14.”
That Night Follows Day has toured the world since its premiere in May 2007, clocking up 180 public performances in numerous countries from Germany to Australia, until now using subtitles.
“We’re really thrilled to be a part of the 40th birthday celebrations,” adds Tim, whose company has been to Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Romania and Argentina this year alone.
“Forced Entertainment has it’s own long history in Sheffield – 27 years – and our relationship with Sheffield Theatres goes back nearly as far.
“We’ve performed in each of their three spaces over that time but it feels great to be in the Crucible with this project – it’s a unique and compelling space.
“It seems important the Crucible celebrations are playing host to a wide variety of partners and projects, helping to expand and develop the idea of what performance in the city might mean.”
The performance, 2pm on Saturday, is free but ticketed.