Fancy a festive theatrical party for over-18s?
Get your glad rags on and head over to Coventry Belgrade's B2 studio space for some nibbles, drinks, live music, gaming tables and immersive drama - where you may become part of the script.
Coventry Belgrade Theatre’s smaller B2 space is being converted into Club 2B this Christmas, an immersive theatrical cabaret-style nightclub experience for over-18s with bar and live music. Its charismatic creator Corey Campbell tells us more…
London has a cluster of immersive or interactive plays and experiences showing this Christmas from an immersive retelling of A Christmas Carol over a two-course dinner with parlour games in Mayfair and a drag version of panto fave Aladdin at The Vaults in Waterloo to an interactive adaptation of The Wolf of Wall Street.
It’s a world Birmingham theatre company director Corey Campbell is very familiar with.
In between touring and performing, his theatre company Strictly Arts, was approached by nightclubs in Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and London to devise and stage site-specific immersive shows “to help with foot fall” for six months of the year. One of these evolved into The Tick Tack Club in London Bridge, an immersive experience bar based on Peaky Blinders with an Art Deco restaurant and illicit 1920s gambling den where clubbers mingled with actors in period dress.
Club2B is Corey’s first production as part of his new role at Coventry’s Belgrade Theare. He was appointed one of three creative leads for Coventry’s Year as City of Culture in 2021, back in June together with Balisha Karra, currently Director in Residence at the Old Vic Theatre, London, and Justine Themen, Associate Director of the Belgrade Theatre since 2003 when she arrived fresh from the Caribbean and Senegal.
Corey felt the B2 space would be well suited to a vibrant festive immersive experience where 1930s Berlin cabaret club meets Secret Cinema and underground prohibition era nightclub. Gone are the rows of seats and conventional stage setting, instead the room will be filled with cabaret-style tables, a live band and bar. Audiences can sip cocktails and nibble on pre-ordered food from a vegan or meat menu while watching the drama unfold around them. A cast of six have devised an hour-long piece which will embed individuals from the audiences into the story – a tempestuous tale of romance across the ages.
Its central characters are Greek gods, Zeus – in disguise as club host ‘Z’- and wife Hera. The tempestuous couple take the form of mortal celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Gatsby and Lady Godiva.
Corey said: “This isn’t your traditional theatre experience. We are talking about a fully immersive event where the fourth wall is gone, and we’re all playing and exploring and having a good time together. You can expect the works: singing, dancing, live music, DJs, magic and we hope that you’ll be ready to join in, interact and engage with us.”
Afterwards actors will mingle with the audience in an after-show party. Expect a cross-genre of live music and djs mixing pop culture with jazz, swing and even some folk.
So, what’s the dress code? Audiences are invited to dress up in their finest threads from their favourite era, book or film. Corey said: “In terms of dress and how people danced – my favourite era is the 1920s definitely. I love the energy and the whole American dream. I will be playing the host of the show.” Outside of work, Corey isn’t that into dressing up. He said: “When it comes to clothes shopping, I’m really boring! I come to work in pj’s and sliders – today I’ve borrowed some fluffy sliders from my mum!”
Strictly Arts was supported by the Belgrade’s Springboard talent development programme through productions including Green Leaves Fall and Freeman telling Afro Caribbean stories.
Freeman was a massive Edinburgh Festival sell-out hit in 2018, winner of the Spirit of the Fringe Award, receiving a Special Commendation from the festival’s social impact awards SIT-UP, and shortlisted for the Freedom of Expression Award (Amnesty International). It explores systemic racism and mental illness, inspired by the story of William Freeman, the first man in America to plead insanity as a legal defence. Combining high-energy physical theatre, powerful drama, gospel singing, shadow puppetry and more, the show crosses time and oceans, weaving together the stories of Afro-Caribbean prisoners in the US and UK.
Corey said: “I have such a love for the Belgrade and Coventry. Hamish is dope. His support has been amazing – he really supported us when no-one else was prepared to. The response to Freeman was thrilling – the message was very important. We toured with it across Peru and America including Manhattan. It’s a hard-hitting story, but was selling out all over!”
Next up in early 2020 Corey is co-directing Alex Wheatle’s YA novel Crongton Knights, which runs Feb 8-22 in Coventry ahead of a UK tour. It won Wheatle a Guardian children’s fiction award and is the tale of a group of teenagers living on an estate in a fictionalised version of South London.
With sexting, knives and turf wars the story was in danger of being seen as “worthy, grim or inauthentic”. Instead, it’s been praised for being “funny and warm-hearted” . The new play features an energetic young cast and original music by Conrad Murray of the Battersea Arts Centre Beatbox Academy.
Corey said: “Alex who was locked up in prison after the Brixton riots and has such a wealth of experience. It’s been amazing to work with him on this production as a young black man from Birmingham raised in a gang-affiliated area. The group of young people in this story are dedicated to supporting each other. We’re working with a company of young actors and instead of devising the music we’re using spoken word and beat box.”
Club2B runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry from Wed Dec 11 – Tues Dec 31. Tel: 024 7655 3055, club2b