Riverside Studios now reopened and offering a unique theatre experience!
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
A lot has changed at Riverside Studios in the past five years. Having closed its doors back in 2014 to undergo a huge renovation project, the venue now shines like a freshly minted new penny. With Ingmar Bergman's Persona now in full swing, there's no better time than now to explore what's new at The Riverside in Hammersmith!
Photos of Riverside Studios interior and exterior by © Victor Frankowski. Coaster designs of Riverside icons Amy Winehouse and Benjamin Zephaniah
by © Wilfrid Wood. Discover more Wilfrid Wood designs and artworks on Instagram here.
What's new with Riverside Studios in London?
William Burdett-Coutts, Artistic Director at Riverside Studios since 1993, has openly admitted the venue was a "ramshackle" that was "past its sell-by-date" despite being lauded as a "comfortable building with a fantastic atmosphere." This is precisely why the venue had no choice but to shut its doors for a large renovation project that lasted for five years. What replaced the old, historic building is nothing short of fantastical!
The new state-of-the-art studio facility now lays claim to the most modern TV studio in the UK (which was christened during Channel 4's election night coverage, no less) and it boasts two theatre spaces with a 200- and 500-seating capacity, respectively, as well as two cinema screens with a 48- and 208-seating capacity, a coffee shop, Studio 8 Cafe and Bar, and an upscale brasserie dubbed Sam's Riverside. The venue's transformation into a full-on entertainment and culinary destination is nothing short of spectacular and certainly reminiscent oif the recently developed Boulevard Theatre Complex.
The two theatre spaces known as Studios 2 and 3, in particular, were designed with a floating "box-in-box" design in mind and offer total sound isolation. In the past, Burdett-Coutts would often avoid running two stage productions at the same time for fear of upsetting the directors, but the new acoustics make it now an achievable feat with the greatest of ease. Currently Studio 3 is running Persona until 23 February whilst Studio 2 will run Love, Loss and Chianti beginning next month on 25 February.
The building itself has also been shifted away from the edge of the riverbed and boasts a newly constructed walkway, which will certainly draw people into its spaces to grab a cup of coffee with friends and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views of the Hammersmith Bridge on the Thames.
William Burdett-Coutts has stated: "The old Riverside was lost down a back alley – people viewed it as a secret garden. Now we have opened this up people go past it all the time. We are quite a unique building in terms of the mix of interests that happen here and they are very much built on the history of Riverside. The potential here is enormous."
But aesthetics aside, there's another interesting innovation that London's Riverside Studios has in store for theatregoers; the venue recently pledged to enter the digital age and plans on filming theatrical productions, both big and small, so that the general public will have the chance to enjoy them from the comfort of their own home, at special screenings, or even online. This will also, naturally, allow the studios to enter the global digital transmissions market.
A brief history of Riverside Studios
First opened in 1933 as Riverside Film Studio, Riverside Studios has a very rich history in film and television and was catapulted into the spotlight after being acquired by the BBC in the 50s to film such popular TV series as Blue Peter, Top of the Pops, Z-Cars, and, you guessed it, even Doctor Who! Scenes from the sci-fi show's second series in which Daleks emerges from underwater were filmed nearby beneath the Hammersmith Bridge. The "old warehouse" building soon built up its reputation as a full-blown arts centre, expanding to exhibit art, showcase music, and run theatrical productions.
Riverside icons become even more iconic thanks to new NLHF-funded project
Riverside Studios has received a special grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund to digitally archive its material from the last 30 years, including never-before-seen David Bowie performances that were recorded but left to collect dust on a shelf. The venue has also, thanks to the NLHF grant, worked closely with visual artist Wilfrid Wood to design 12 coasters of the venue's most famous and prolific stars, including Amy Winehouse, and more. These coasters are available for pick-up at the Studios and certainly won't be around forever. Collect them whilst you still can!
Don't miss Ingmar Bergman's spectacular new piece Persona, which stars a quartet cast comprised of Olivier Award-winning actress Alice Krige as Sister Alma, singer/songwriter and actress Nobuhle Mngcwengi as Elizabet, Paul Schoolman as The Narrator, and William Close as the fourth voice.
When Elizabet suffers from a complete mental breakdown and grows mute, she is sent to a remote summer rehabilitation house on the beach with Sister Alma, the nurse who is seeing her to recovery. Will Alma be able to break Elizabet from her silent spell?