I had a great night at the theatre yesterday. It was not so much the play, a surprisingly old-fashioned three hander called Daytona that was watchable with some longueurs, as the environment and the company.
Consultant Hoare Lea had invited a group to the new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, 15 minutes from central London. This is a new theatre, only a couple of months old, created through donations and grants and sheer bloody-mindedness by artistic director Jez Bond. It is still hard to work out how it will make money, but the 200-seat main house was fairly full, and the bars were buzzing.
As a new theatre director, Bond decided he did not want to work with an established theatre architect and instead appointed theatre neophyte David Hughes.As with so many specialist areas, there is no real exclusive mystique to theatre design, just some special things you need to know. And there are consultants who can help. In this case, Hughes worked with top theatre consultant Charcoal Blue and, as the result of their advice, he claims that the theatre now has the best sightlines in London.
What is really extraordinary is that Hughes is effectively a one-man band, working only with his wife who is an interior designer. He has worked in bigger practices in the past, including Branson Coates and Assael, but is now a fan of being a loner, bringing in collaborators when he needs them.
'Arts buildings' are the field that most architects are keen to get into, and notoriously difficult to break into. Hughes has managed it - and done a great job of converting a former office building. He has even introduced rooflights into both theatre spaces, making them more attractive for daytime non-performance. They are blacked out in the evening. And he has used his recent background in residential design to create flats at the top which have been sold off to help fund the development.
Hughes now has a great calling card if he wants to jump through the OJEU hoops in the future. But he is already discussing another arts project, again by negotiation, so perhaps he won't need to.