Hi London Theatre Reviews,

So, here we are in little old Ilford in our very Covid-Secure Kenneth More Theatre and I find myself a little perplexed….


We have worked incredibly hard to ensure that our 360 seat theatre is safe and secure. With socially distanced seating, table service, and a one-way system around the building, our patrons tell us that they feel confident and safe visiting us. We even made a ‘how-to’ video so people can see exactly how we will be operating before visiting us.  Our seating and legroom are generous anyway, but our new seating plan ensures there’s, with no-one behind you, in front of you or next to you…… Oh, no there isn’t!  No-one will cross you in your aisle as you are the only one with access to your seats.  We can fit a maximum of 140, if everybody books in the groups we want them to!!  We have a panto planned and have had two live performances so far since the restrictions were lifted.  Our Re-Opening Night on 22nd August was totally sold out with all performers generously giving their time for free. We didn’t expect this, but many wanted to show their thanks for the support and step up we’ve been able to give them in the past. On Saturday 10th October we had four tenors ‘VOXX’ perform to a packed audience who enjoyed table and seat service for their drinks. 


We’ve never been in doubt that we’d have a panto if restrictions allow for it. We have performances planned from 9th December to 10th January, with 21 local children performing as the ‘Seven Dwarfs’ and they were picked out of 85 children who auditioned. Live Streaming equipment is currently being installed for people to access the performance who don’t feel ready to come out or who are shielding, or if we go into another lockdown.  This has all been in the pipeline and planned since the beginning of lockdown and we are adamant to forge ahead no matter what, giving job security to freelancers who would otherwise be unemployed within the Arts this Christmas.


So, the reason I find this situation frustrating is that when it is announced that ‘certain’ pantomimes are being funded by the National Lottery, this makes the 6 o’clock news.  We are a charitable organisation working particularly hard to provide a much needed panto for our community. Financially we aim to break even at least, but feel this year more than ever we can bring some joy to the families and children in the area whose spirits with a classic traditional panto. More than ever we need to support our supply chain of freelance technicians, actors, musicians and creatives who have just had an incredibly tough year. That I feel is newsworthy!!


Our motto during lockdown has been incredibly positive and our online programme throughout was second to none, all under the motto ‘Stay Safe, Be Creative’. Redbridge Drama Centre, our sister venue in South Woodford, hosted summer classes from 21st July and we were fully booked with over 300 children coming through our doors for our very secure and safe summer programme of activities. Again with a ‘how to’ video to demonstrate how this would operate to alleviate people’s understandable fears. Apparently our ideas and procedures have been happily ‘borrowed’ by many other organisations who watched our short film! But we don’t mind this – we need to support each other across our sector to get through these challenges. Our out of school hours programme is busier than ever with over 450 members accessing Redbridge Drama Centre and Kenneth More Theatre every week.  This we are very proud of. 


I feel that there are many within our industry who have approached lockdown and its restrictions with negativity and taken the opportunity to moan. Yes, there’s lots to moan about and we are in unprecedented times! But we chose to take a positive outlook and do whatever we can to bring the arts to everyone in ways that are accessible for all, It’s been hard. Yes, it’s been a risk. We couldn’t have done it without our amazing team of people and partners. So, I guess my question is, why aren’t we on the 6 o’clock news!! 


Sally Polden

Head Of Theatre

Arts, Culture and Libraries | Vision RCL


Photo: Doug Hunt