PRESS RELEASE                          

New venue Potemkin Theatre launches
with cutting edge performance, debate and cinema 

  • Built by Maich Swift Architects, this unique canal-side structure is the winner of the Antepavilion Architecture prize 2019

  • Throughout September 2019, the Potemkin Theatre will host an engaging, imaginative programme of performance, talks and open air film screenings

  • Audiences are invited to join leading innovators in architecture, art and performance as they share their ideas on the future of their respective industries

  • The inaugural programme concludes with a weekend symposium on immersive theatre and design, curated by Becky Brown and involving members of the PunchDrunk team

  • Rooftop cinema screenings of films celebrating the urban architecture of the world’s best cities run concurrent to the main programme

Winner of the 2019 Antepavilion Architecture Prize 2019, London’s brand new Potemkin Theatre announces its late-summer programme of fresh, forward-looking performance and audience-focused events. Bringing together opera, family-friendly theatre, new writing for the stage, expert architectural talks and an innovative two-day symposium, the programme makes the very most of its waterside location and encourages audiences to enjoy the remaining late-summer evenings. Opening with a performance from Shadwell Opera, the programme draws to a close almost a month later with a weekend symposium focusing on the future of immersive theatre and design that involves, among other guests, members of the renowned PunchDrunk team.

Created by Maich Swift Architects, the Potemkin Theatre is the third annual Antepavilion. The bold, geometric structure is attached to the top of a Haggerston warehouse. Its fantastic canal-side location allows audiences to witness performance happening either from the roof itself, or by looking across the waterway. This playful structure is inspired by the ramshackle house of Monsieur Hulot in the iconic Jacques Tati film Mon Oncle. The name, in turn, is a reference to the eighteenth-century Russian military leader Grigory Potemkin, famed for having constructed faux villages in order to please Empress Catherine II. Accordingly, the Potemkin Theatre is deliberately façade-like, with one side covered in coloured laminate and the other left open to reveal the building’s structural skeleton.

Shadwell Opera open the main programme with two performances of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s visceral and disturbing monodrama 8 Songs for a Mad King. The youthful operatic company, who specialise in staging opera in non-traditional spaces, have thoroughly re-worked and put their own stamp on this compelling drama based on the life of King George III. Directed by Jack Furness, the staging poses eviscerating questions about the overwrought anxieties of our own age.

Joyful theatre company Hikapee bring their delightful combination of circus, puppetry and storytelling to the Potemkin Theatre with Look up! This family-friendly show follows Robyn, a child puppet who doesn’t know how to be scared. Unlike many members of the audience (young or old) Robyn is not interested in work or phones.

The Architecture Foundation hosts a public talk between Steve Tompkins, director of architectural firm Haworth Tompkins, and David Jubb, former artistic director of the Battersea Arts Centre. Haworth Tomkins were behind the highly celebrated renovation of the Grade II* listed South London arts venue after it was devastated by a fire in March 2015.

For one night only, the UK premiere of Colour Blind by Oren Safdie comes to the Potemkin Theatre. Oren is the son of Moshe Safdie, world-famous architect, and his play is inspired by the construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Colour Blind imagines a fictional jury assembled to choose the winning architectural design for the building while delivering a sharp satire of the racial politics informing the jury members’ decision. Colour Blind stars stage and screen actress Alana Maria alongside US actor Akie Katobe, best known for TV and film roles including Humans and Mad Men

Closing the announced events is In The Sandbox, a weekend symposium evaluating the ever-popular genre of immersive theatre and its design. Curated by Becky Brown, the scheduled debates and workshops will foster collaboration and the sharing of ideas between theatremakers, game designers, academics, performers and architects. Featured professionals leading the events include members of the PunchDrunk creative team, Martin Coat of Boomtown Fair / Dank Parish, Adam Sibbard of Historic Royal Palaces, Meg Cunningham from the University of Surrey and Janet K Howe, international director of immersive and site-specific theatre.

Complementing the architectural theme of the main programme is a series of rooftop film screenings. Opening on 31 August with Mon Oncle, the following five films all focus on global cities famous for their instantly recognisable urban landscapes. Audiences will be able to enjoy Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire, Matthieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty.

Speaking about the Potemkin Theatre, producer Roland Smith said “The Potemkin Theatre cleaves through the urban roof-scape creating a moment of colour and playfulness, making passers-by look twice to check that it is real.  Whether it is the operatic madness of 8 Songs for a Mad King, the gravity-defying playfulness of ‘Look Up’ or the ethereal vision of Berlin in Wings of Desire each aspect captures that  sense of disrupting the city through drawing out the life beneath the concrete and above the skyline. At a time when the provision of affordable arts and performance space is being priced out of central London, the transience of the Potemkin Theatre serves to maintain a presence in a city where increasing rents threaten London’s status as a place for creation."

The Antepavilion Architecture prize is an open architectural competition run by Shiva Ltd in collaboration with the Architecture Foundation. The 2019 winning entry, the Potemkin Theatre, was selected from 188 entries responding to the brief to design a beacon-like structure beside the Regent’s Canal. 

Maich Swift Architects are a London-based architectural firm established by Ted Swift and Paul Maich. Prior to founding the company, the pair worked together at Caruso St John Architects on projects including the 2016 Stirling Prize winning Newport Street Gallery. 

Shadwell Opera specialize in staging intimate, accessible operatic performances in unusual spaces. Established in 2009, the company is led by artistic director Jack Furness and musical director Finnegan Downie Dear. Their aim is to promote the talents of younger opera performers, champion British opera and find non-traditional spaces to perform in. The company has previously staged Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ other work The Lighthouse

Hikapee is a vibrant circus theatre company established in 2014 by Bryony Livesey and Edd Casey. The team creates narrative-driven work for all ages performed in a variety of theatres and outdoor spaces.

Oren Safdie is a playwright and screenwriter. The son of internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie, he originally studied architecture before switching to playwriting while completing his Masters in Architecture. The author of 14 plays, Safdie previously used his experience of the architecture industry to inform his play Private Jokes, Public Places, which satirizes the experience of a young Korean-American student presenting to a jury of famous architects.

Becky Brown is a London-based Creative Producer and Event Manager specializing in immersive and interactive experiences, and live events. Alongside Oscar Blustin, Becky runs SPECIFIQ, a site-specific and immersive theatre company which has worked on commissions for the National Theatre, the National Maritime Museum and the Tower Bridge Engine Rooms.

The Potemkin Theatre programme is supported by a grant from Arts Council England and is delivered in partnership with Dezeen. 

The Potemkin Theatre and Antepavilion are supported by the Architecture Foundation and Shiva Ltd.

@potemkintheatre | |

Listings information
Potemkin Theatre 

31 August -  7 October

Columbia & Brunswick Wharf, 55 Laburnum Street, E2 8BD

07713 48 64 20 | 

Shadwell Opera | 8 Songs for a Mad King                   7 – 8 Sep, 7.30pm
The king is man. A madman thinks he’s the king. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ fascinating and disturbing telling of the descent of King George III into madness remains a mesmerizing account of human frailty and power. London’s Shadwell Opera put their own engrossing take on it with a staging by Jack Furness that builds on their well-deserved reputation as a company who thrive in unusual spaces. Conductor: Chris Stark. Baritone: Nicholas Morris.

Running Time: 150mins | Suitable 14+ | | £14 (£8)

Hikapee | Look up!                                                                     21 Sep, 11.30am & 2.00pm

Robyn is a fearless child puppet who loves to explore the outdoor world around her. Here’s what she doesn’t like: phones or work. This heart-warming family show by Hikapee reminds us all, young and old, to take a break from screens are look again at the glorious outdoors. Blending together puppetry, circus and storytelling, Look up! is an enjoyable, revitalizing experience for audiences.

Running Time: 60mins | Suitable for ages ? | | Under 5s: Free, 6 - 12 year olds: £8, Over 12 years old: £12

Architecture Foundation | Steve Tompkins and David Jubb in Conversation           26 Sep, 7.00pm

In March 2015, the Grade II* listed Battersea Arts Centre near Clapham Junction suffered huge damage in a catastrophic fire. Steve Tompkins, the director of Haworth Tompkins, the architects in charge of the subsequent regeneration project, talks to David Jubb, former Artist Director of the BAC. 

Running Time: 90mins | £8

Oren Safdie | Color Blind                                                                       28 Sep, 7.30pm

A jury of architects are assembled to assess the proposed designs for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. But what’s really informing the decision-making process? Oren Safdie’s new play takes a wryly satirical looks at the racial politics and bias of the architectural industry and modern America. Directed by Sean Power.

This event is performed as a reading.

Running Time: 180mins | ALL AGES | £5

Weekend Symposium | In the Sandbox: Creating, Playing and Performing in Immersive Worlds 

28 & 29 Sep

Curated by Becky Brown for SPECIFIQ

Theatremakers, game designers, academics, performers and architects join together for this two-day symposium on the future of immersive performance and design. With audiences ever more keen for immersive and site-specific theatrical experiences, what lies ahead for this genre of performance? This cross-disciplinary event promotes increased collaboration between practitioners and a focus on better public engagement. Featured professionals leading the events include members of the PunchDrunk creative team, Martin Coat of Boomtown Fair / Dank Parish, Adam Sibbard of Historic Royal Palaces, Meg Cunningham from the University of Surrey and Janet K Howe, international director of immersive and site-specific theatre.

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Rooftop cinema schedule

31 Aug Mon Oncle [(U) certificate] 8pm

12 Sep Manhattan (Cities in Film – New York)  [(12A) certificate] 8pm

14 Sep La Haine (Cities in Film – Paris) [(15) certificate] 8pm

15 Sep The Great Beauty (Cities in Film – Rome) [(15) certificate] 8pm

19 Sep Chinatown (Cities in Film – LA) [(15) certificate] 8pm

21 Sep Wings of Desire (Cities in Film – Berlin) [(12) certificate] 8pm