Live Witness Dress Rehearsal – by Nicola Owen

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Live Witness is Live Theatre’s unique celebration of its 40th year since being founded in 1973. The company toured local school and clubs with a focus on performing plays with a local team of writers and actors. As the reputation of Live grew an old warehouse on the rotting docks next to Trinity House was eventually seconded as a theatre and, with the help of Amber Films, helped to spark the regeneration of the Quayside into the lovely riverside walk we know now.

Lots of theatre companies bite the dust in their first few years but Live kept on going, kept on building the audiences and kept them coming back for more. Neither the plays nor the players forgot their roots and local writers, actors and directors were nurtured and brought along into the national spotlight.

This is all recorded and remembered in Live Witness by participants, staff members and audiences from past and present. The piece has been created by Unfolding Theatre’s Annie Rigby and Theatre Auracaria’s Amy Golding in homage to the building’s colourful past and with great hope for the future. It’s a show you can enjoy and participate in. Something you can take the kids to and yes please do take them because they will be the future audiences which will keep the theatre alive. An even better reason to take them is that they’ll have a laugh while they learn something.

I was lucky enough to catch the dress rehearsal on Thursday where the performance began in the old archway where the Box Office is now located. It’s a playful and absorbing promenade piece led by entertaining and unexpected turns from some familiar faces and a grumpy bit part from the theatre itself. It’s not impossible to imagine that the building might be haunted given its long history and as you explore the areas which are usually off limits to the public you get a sense of how much has changed but also how much of the present has been built on the labours and sacrifices of the past. It’s a fascinating history tour as well as good, clean fun.

Live Witness may raise a few intriguing questions as you wend your way around the building. It certainly did for me. For example:-

Why does Michael always pretend like he’s never seen you before?

Is Zoe Lambert really covered in thick, black fur?

Was it a bumblebee or a wasp?

When is the next lock-in?

Will the sight and sound of Jane Holman strumming a ukulele ever get old?

How many decibels can she reach on a good day?

Does Carol actually keep all that stuff in her bra?

Go and see this joyful little chunk of theatre and admire what can be achieved by a few good men
and women who dreamt of bringing the higher arts to the working classes.

And I hope you find the answers that you are looking for too.


2 thoughts on “Live Witness Dress Rehearsal – by Nicola Owen

  1. Great blog post Nicola. I was there today too and agree it was a great theatre experience. Made me feel all nostalgic and oh if the Theatre could talk … Oh hang on a minute it did! I love the history and storytelling today, it felt like a real team performance – with the audience included and engaged as an active team member. Really enjoyed it.

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