Micro theatres are closer to heaven

Closer To Heaven
Closer To Heaven
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BASICALLY, my London theatre date Katy and I were sitting beneath an old disused railway arch.

Disused is perhaps the wrong word, as the structure had been adapted to house The Union Theatre, a dinky little 50-seat venue in Southwark.

That such a small space should be playing host to the Pet Shop Boys and Jonathan Harvey’s musical Closer To Heaven had, at first, surprised me. Having now visited The Union it proved a wise decision, not just artistically, but commercially.

Closer To Heaven is the story of Dave. Just off the boat from Ireland, he finds himself caught up in the seedy nightlife of London in the 1980s. All pounding beats, washed-up club hostesses, flashing lights and sweaty bodies, The Union’s old stonework doubled perfectly as the shadowy, low-lit club in which the action took place.

An almost claustrophobic setting, the atmosphere boasted an authenticity often lacking from purpose-built theatre spaces.

It was the second time Katy and I had ventured to see the musical. First time around, earlier this year, it had sold out before opening, hence the return... by popular demand. Told you it was a wise commercial decision.

London has many small theatres like this, although The Union is one of the more unusual - the Edinburgh equivalent would probably be The Caves.

At a time when audiences are often thin on the ground, small venues certainly appear to be the way forward, especially if they can attract such high-profile programming.

The problem is, such productions usually look for much larger homes in order to maximise returns. There’s a limit to what you can make with just 50 seats a night.

So kudos to Jonathan Harvey and the Pet Shop Boys for allowing their work to be performed in such an intimate setting.