All theatre makers in Ireland, and in North-West Dublin Inner City specifically, I have an amazing piece of news for you all! A brand new art space has opened right around the corner from Henry Street, on Little Green Street, in Smithfield: The Complex Live Arts Space.
I had an amazing opportunity to chat to the Artistic Director of the The Complex – Vanessa Fielding. Vanessa is far from a stranger to the world of arts and theatre. Starting her professional life in a very conventional theatre in England, Vanessa has since directed a number of plays, as well as working for the National Theatre in London.
Being hugely inspired by ordinary people on the streets, she has always wanted to make arts available and easily accessable by the public generally, and by the local community, in particular.
The idea of creating a space for creative arts originated in 2008. In 2009 such space found its first home in Smithfield with a number of empty units available for performances and exhibitions. And even though the old space had no infrastructure (electricity, heating, water, etc…), there was no charge to use it. Many artists would have probably known worse working conditions, but still it was very difficult to bring a professional performance in such conditions. Nevertheless, it’s the experience that counts, so personally for Vanessa it was a good start.
The new space, The Complex, is being leased commercially; so the working conditions from the very beginning are much better. It’s hard to believe that Vanessa and her team only moved into the building on Little Green Street in April. Since then they’ve achieved to do a part of their grand plan: to build new studios. And as I’m interviewing Vanessa, I can hear the builders work in the background. Everything looks new and shiny and ready to be occupied and messed up (in a good way, of course!) by the creative minds and hands.
The next step now is to develop a venue, which, at this stage, is very much a work-in-progress. Some minor issues have prevented The Complex from opening its doors for live performances. Leaping ahead, I want to add very briefly that, as soon as next week The Complex will welcome its first play: In Light of Salt Rings They Drew by Strive Theatre Group.
Strive Theatre will present their play in The Complex for two nights only. And, as Vanessa puts it herself, the team in the Complex sees it as “a preview to the space. It is not formally opened, it’s not formally launched yet.” But it’s a start, and a very promising one!
To date, the big space in The Complex has been mainly used for other events, such as the after party for the Pro-Choice movement, a number of workshops and talks.
As for the studios: there are nine of them. When it comes to leasing the studios, absolutely any artists can apply. At this particular moment, all nine studios have been let amongst all to musicians, photographers, painters, textile designers, theatre companies and performance art companies. There is an option to rent the studio or to share it with another artist/company. It’s important to take into consideration that all studios are being leased on a long term.
There is no competition in who is going to get a studio; it directly depends on the work one or another artist is producing. There is an obvious demand for the studios and Vanessa, together with the creative team in The Complex, has a certain vision of what kind of art they would like to see in their space. Before letting a studio, all candidates will have to present their work and come for an interview.
Another benefit of being a studio artist in The Complex is that there is a space for exhibiting your work. If you have been let a studio, that means that The Complex is supporting your art and your vision. There will be help from the creative team (as well as a financial discount) for those studio artists desiring to exhibit their creations in The Complex.
Apart from the studios, The Complex has its main (big) space. If we had to compare the main space in The Complex to any other venue in Dublin the closest example would be The Project Arts Center on the other side of the river. When a theatre company brings in a production, they would have to have their own rehearsing space. But the biggest advantage of The Complex is that it’s an “empty warehouse”. It’s very convenient for the theatre companies to arrange everything in a way that would suit them and that one particular performance. And when I say everything, I mean it one hundred percent. As there are no seats nailed down, which gives such a freedom for staging and designing the set as for where and how the audience will be sitted.
Vanessa says that alternative seating is something that they, in The Complex, hugely encourage the coming artists to think about. In other words, to make the artists think differently when it comes to interacting with the audience.
Promenade theatre, where the audience physically moves along with the play; Traverse theatre, where the audience is sitted on two opposite sides facing each other, with the stage in the middle; or proper Round theatre, where the audience sits in a circle around the stage are only a few examples of how Vanessa sees the space in The Complex being used for staging plays and performances.
Another amazing feature of this space is that it can host up to 300 people at a time. Take into account that The Abbey Theatre, for example, can accommodate slightly under 500 patrons at a time, while in The Peacock Theatre enter only 130 guests; The Gate Theatre has 371 seats.
When you apply to stage your play in The Complex. You are applying for something much more than simply an empty space. Having rich and profound experience in theatre herself, Vanessa offers mentoring for all new coming theatre companies. “You are not only buying into being in it [the space]”, she says “it’s a shared energy”. And in order for the audience to feel the energy and understand the story, any piece of theatre has to be meaningful and have some social dimension, to be relevant to what’s happening here and now, “to kick some ass”, as Vanessa puts it herself.
Vanessa thinks that the very basic act of story-telling in a confined space has been quite lost in the twenty-first century. “Theatre is anything but fashionable nowadays”, she says. And by creating The Complex, she pretty ambitiously wants to bring theatre back into fashion; to make people come to see challenging (in all aspects) plays made with passion and quality.
There is no stated rule that the coming production has to be brand new or a good old known one. As long as it has a strong contemporary message and is worth seeing, it’ll certainly find its home in The Complex.
But it’s not all about theatre in The Complex. Vanessa says that she would be happy to see “a mixture of disciplines”. Just to give you one example: The Complex will be welcoming a 50-piece Orchestra playing acoustically Prokofiev, Mozart and Stravinsky. How is that for a change?
As for the future events: being an avid director and theatre maker herself, Vanessa has very ambitious plans for the forthcoming year. A play called “Fat Dad” (a clear reference to the six Ulster counties intended here) is only one of the projects that will be coming to The Complex in the new year; another play that might see light in 2016 is Arthur Miller’s “Two Way Mirror”, which is not one of the master’s most famous plays, but has its certain beauty nevertheless.
Being located in the very heart of North West Dublin Inner City, Vanessa and her creative team would love to bring as many people from the local community as possible. Anybody and everybody is welcomed! In addition to that, The Complex has a Youth Theatre of their own, which is located in a different building and hosts weekend workshops worth checking.
To apply for a studio or to send in a proposal couldn’t be easier in The Complex. Just send an email with your idea/script or request to Vanessa at email@example.com and she’ll take it from there.
For more information, please, visit: http://thecomplex.ie/