OVO drama group to take over St Albans’ Maltings Theatre

AMBITIOUS St Albans drama group OVO is taking over the cash-strapped Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans for an initial six month period.

It follows a decision by the new Tory-led administration to reverse plans to turn the theatre on the second floor of the Maltings shopping centre into a primarily digital cinema.

OVO has been running a small-scale theatre in two locations over the past two years – at Sumpter Yard and latterly Pudding Lane in St Albans.

Both have proved very successful with the vast majority of performances at Pudding Lane over the past 18 months selling out.

OVO artistic director Adam Nichols said: “Having cut our venue management teeth we feel ready to move to a larger space which will provide better facilities and the scope to produce a wider range of productions.

“We’ve loved the intimacy and quirkiness of our ‘found’ spaces but it will be great to be based in a purpose-built theatre.”

He described the arts theatre as having “a wonderful heritage” and being a fixture on the professional touring circuit for many years, hosting a range of arts luminaries from Eddie Izzard to Red Shift.

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“We’re looking forward to building on this history to turn the theatre into a lively, buzzing fringe venue providing high quality performances at affordable prices and a platform for the best local creative talent.”

As well as presenting their own productions, OVO will be working with other top local companies including, in the first season, Peppermint Muse, Tidemark Theatre and Endpaper Theatre.

Lisa White, of Fluent Ginger which will be doing the marketing for the new OVO-led venture, said: “The really exciting bit is going to be bringing outside touring theatre back to St Albans – we have already made contact with the likes of Olivier award-winning Theatre 503 – which will hopefully happen after Christmas. There’s genuine interest and excitement from everyone I’ve spoken to in getting the theatre back on track.”

In the meantime, the district council has gone out to consultation with residents and local community groups to find out their ideas about how the theatre space can be used. Various meetings are earmarked once the results of the consultation are known.

Cllr Mike Wakeley, the district council’s portfolio holder for sports and leisure, said they had listened and were continuing to listen to the public on their preference for live performance at the arts theatre. Urging local people to go along and support OVO, he said it would give them an opportunity to showcase their repertoire at the theatre.

He added: “No final decision has yet been made on the long-term future of the Maltings Arts Theatre but this allows everyone to experience one exciting option. We are using this consultation to find out what the community want at this venue and what would also be financially viable.”

n Tickets are now on sale for OVO’s inaugural production at the Maltings entitled Songs from the Silver Screen, featuring some of the best movie music of all time from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Moulin Rouge, South Pacific to Dirty Dancing. Tickets can be obtained via the website www.ovo.org.uk or call the box office on 07807 521436.