Long-running Sheffield theatre looks for new audiences with exciting shows

Comedian Brennan Reece starts the new season with his hit Edinburgh Festival stand-up show, Everlong
Comedian Brennan Reece starts the new season with his hit Edinburgh Festival stand-up show, Everlong

The University of Sheffield is hosting a new festival of top independent drama that’s aimed at students and a general audience alike, to tempt more people to visit the University Drama Studio.

Toby Oliver, Enable US communications and marketing officer, said that being able to work in the drama studio had tempted him to study English and drama at the university, helping him to become a successful theatre practitioner himself.

He said: “It excited me, the fact that it was a church that had become a theatre. I spent much of the three years doing shows on stage or operating the lights.

“It’s such an amazing space and it’s a shame that more people aren’t getting the chance to see professional theatre there.”

Nick Hopwood was brought into the university three years ago to manage the performance space. He has previously worked at the iconic Roundhouse in London and the Lowry theatre in Salford, Manchester.

The studio has been completely upgraded with new technical equipment and has been redecorated as well, with a view to bringing in professional theatre alongside the student plays and performances by Sheffield amateur drama societies.

Nick stressed there is no intention to freeze out community groups.

He is keen to bring in new audiences, such as the cyclists who came to see Tour de France drama Ventoux.

“You could sit in the audience and feel that the majority of people had never been to a theatre before. It was really exciting and the feedback was they loved it.”

The first Enable US festival took place this spring , showcasing new and independent performance. All the shows are on for one night only.

As well as bringing in new audiences, the festival gives university theatre students the chance to work alongside the professionals as many of the performers who appear at the drama studio also run workshops for the students.

The festival line-up offers comedy, Japanese horror, a Howard Barker world premiere, clowning, local history, children’s theatre, candle-lit ghost stories, political gig theatre, interactive gaming and a personal exploration of quantum mechanics.

The festival opens with award-winning comedian Brennan Reece with his new hit show Everlong on Sunday (October 29) at 8pm.

This is followed on Monday by Japanese horror-inspired drama Kwaidan which features realistic life-size and humanette puppets and video.

Wednesday’s double bill of hard-hitting short dramas from playwright Howard Barker includes a world premiere of unpublished play All This Joseph.

The first week also includes Dead Flows the Don, the story of the river, on Thursday, and children’s show Three Bears on Saturday. Week two begins on Monday, November 27 with political drama, plus a play-along computer game show, MR James ghost stories by candlelight and a puppet version of Rapunzel.

Book at the website (see above), call 0114 223 3777 or visit the City Hall or uni students’ union box offices.