Water way to see a play

Panoramic view of the Sheffield canal basin' 'by Kevin wells (killamarsh)
Panoramic view of the Sheffield canal basin' 'by Kevin wells (killamarsh)
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ALL the world’s a stage, so said William Shakespeare.

And so too it seems, according to Sheffield Theatres, is all the Sheffield to Tinsley canal.

Sheffield Canal 'Basin'Moorings by Don Valley Stadium on Sheffield canal on the run from Tinsley to Victoria Quay'CANACS

Sheffield Canal 'Basin'Moorings by Don Valley Stadium on Sheffield canal on the run from Tinsley to Victoria Quay'CANACS

The company, the artistic powerhouse behind The Crucible and Lyceum, is to stage perhaps the most ambitious show in its distinguished history – on the four mile stretch of waterway.

Audiences will travel down the canal in barges while, at various on-shore sites and bridges, a series of music, dance and action performances will be enacted.

Expect a brass ensemble in front of Don Valley Stadium perhaps, a circus act at Victoria Quays, or a comedy sequence on Iron Bridge – all underpinned by an on-board (hopefully) big-name narrator.

If there’s the odd fisherman or two looking bemused, they’re probably not part of the performance – although you never know.

Sheffield Canal 'Basin''CANACS

Sheffield Canal 'Basin''CANACS

“There will definitely be an element of blurring performance and reality,” says Andrew Loretto, creative producer with Sheffield Theatres and the man leading the project. “That’s inevitable with any performance set in a public space but that’s what makes them so exciting.

“Sheffield Theatres has never tried anything like it before so it’s very much a case of finding our way as we go but we’re confident it will be a big success.

“The city has these amazing theatres in Tudor Square but, for whatever reason, there are a lot of people who have never been. This is a way of going to them; of taking live performance to a new and unusual places; to make theatre more inclusive.”

The production – set to cost in excess of £100,000 and being worked on with The Blue Shed production house – will run each night for one week next September.

IRON BRIDGE OVER SHEFFIELD CANAL, by KEN TAYLOR 'tykytay@supanet.com

IRON BRIDGE OVER SHEFFIELD CANAL, by KEN TAYLOR 'tykytay@supanet.com

The audience will board at Victoria Quays in the early evening and travel to Tinsley. Afterwards, their ticket price will include a small on-land reception and a tram ride back into the city.

Details of script and cast are still in their early stages but producers say the whole piece will make explicit reference to the canal’s history with Sheffield University academics currently researching the area’s past as part of the project. More than 200 performers – many professional artists but also including community participants – will be involved in some capacity.

And if it works? Expect to see a similar production coming to a run-down area near you.

“This is the first of what we hope will become a regular thing,” says Andrew, who previously directed a similar extravaganza featuring 300 performers playing at Scarborough sea front as part of the National Student Drama Festival. “We’re asking for people to tell us other venues which they think would work well.

“And what’s important too is the legacy for something like this. We want there to be a real regenerative impact on the areas we go to. We want to have a conversation with the communities who use these spaces and try and make sure it benefits them. On the canal, for example, that might include working with British Waterways to improve signage – or talking with those fishermen.”

People are now invited to nominate other locations for future projects a.loretto@sheffieldtheatres.co.uk by Monday, April 2, 2012.

Andrew Loretto

Andrew Loretto