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Isle Of Dogs: How David Grindley is set to star in his own play at The Space

The Island resident and original SpaceWorks member will stage a show from July 26-31, 2022

David Grindley is set to star in David's Play at The Space
David Grindley is set to star in David’s Play at The Space – image James Perrin

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Adam Hemming joined The Space in 2004, subsequently stepping up to the role of artistic director a couple of years later.

Not that it’s a competition, but David Grindley has been involved with the Westferry Road venue for longer than that – about 19 years, in fact. 

“I get a lot out of it,” said David, whose speech and movement is affected by cerebral palsy.

“It saved my life. When I was in a home, I was shut away a lot, but when I came here, I could do drama.”

Now the Isle Of Dogs resident has decided, as an original member of in-house company SpaceWorks, that he’s going to star in a production and that there’s really nothing Adam or anyone else can do about it – even if they wanted to. Actually, they’re complicit.

“This is the second play that we’ve done with David,” said Adam.

“The first was 2015’s The Man Who Found His Freedom, which was about a period in his life when he was in a care home and how he escaped to live a more independent life in east London. It was quite a hard-hitting drama.”

Whatever David’s Play turns out to be after the machinations of writing, rehearsal and devising, it won’t be that. Audiences are in for laughs.

“With this show we wanted to have a bit more fun,” said Adam.

“It’s a backstage comedy based on the last 10 years of David’s life – his time at The Space and the adventures he’s got up to since he’s been here.”

 Adam and David discuss the production
Adam and David discuss the production – image James Perrin

David’s disability hasn’t deterred him from consistently pursuing starring roles, something that’s key to the forthcoming show.

“The main thread of the story is that David is a part of our company SpaceWorks, where local people take part in creating theatre,” said Adam.

“At the end of each production we would talk about what we were going to do next, and David’s suggestion was always My Left Foot – I’d always shut him up.

“There are complications around staging My Left Foot, which was a book originally, then a film with Daniel Day-Lewis, but David was always suggesting it so that he could be the star of the show.

“In the end we decided that, rather than doing that production, we should create a play for David, which he could then star in, so that’s how it all began.”

David’s Play will be directed by Adam, David and deputy artistic director at The Space, Matthew Jameson, who all appear on stage as versions of themselves. 

“Nothing can go wrong,” said David. “I think we’ll feel better with the first night done, but I’m sure it will be alright – I hope people like it.”

Adam added: “It’s quite a rare thing to see someone like David on stage, but we’ve laughed a lot in creating the show and doing the read-through, so we’re hopeful people will find it funny.

“David keeps telling me off because I keep trying to do serious acting.”

The Space has raised cash to help put the show on – partly through a crowdfunding campaign – with David suggesting on the accompanying video that, should sufficient money become available, it would allow him to hire a better director than Adam.

The Space is still accepting donations for the show, although it’s unclear if this could affect Adam’s position.

In some ways, the fundraising efforts feel apt, given David’s own commitment to generating money for the charity that runs the theatre.

“I’ve worked on the box office, been on various committees and done a lot of fundraising,” he said.

“I recently did my annual sponsored walk across the Isle Of Dogs, which I’ve been doing for 10 years.”

David's Play is set to play at The Space from July 26-31
David’s Play is set to play at The Space from July 26-31 – image James Perrin

“David takes his fundraising very seriously and he’s very good at it,” said Adam.

“David has 24-hour care and this is one place where he can come without his carer and get involved in what’s going on.

“He’s seen more shows here than I have, but he’s also organised lunchtime music recitals as well as creating work like this – it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

“David’s participation with SpaceWorks has helped to raise understanding about what someone with cerebral palsy is capable of.

“As a condition, it’s not that well-known, but he’s built up quite a good network of friends.

“He had a group of people go with him on his sponsored walk and then we had a barbecue fundraiser here before some other friends took him on to a pub quiz at The Ship – it was a pretty full-on day.

“The number of people supporting him during the day is a pretty good indication of how well-liked he is.

“One of the stories that we’ve used in David’s Play is about the year we decided to do a sponsored walk in Greenwich.

“I wasn’t with him that year and it turns out there are strict rules there about what you’re allowed to shake a bucket for.

“You have to have advance permission – it’s a bit different to the Isle Of Dogs.

“Anyway, some people asked David to stop and he didn’t take too kindly to that and in the end some mounted police became involved.

“Another story that’s featured is that there was an unfortunate incident where David fell down some stairs coming out of a pub so an ambulance had to be called and, on the way home, he asked the ambulance to stop outside The Space so he could get a drink before last orders.

“About 10 years ago David decided to stop drinking and hasn’t had a drop of wine since.”

David said: “My life has improved a lot since then. I don’t think I’d be here now if I’d carried on drinking.”

Created by David, The Space’s literary manager Mike Carter and the company, David’s Play is set to be performed at The Space from July 26-31, 2022, with shows at 7.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and 2.30pm on Sunday. 

Tickets for the shows cost £15 with 20% off for bookings made by July 12 (so get in quick).

Anyone who would like to donate to support the production or The Space can find more information here.

Read more: Discover Drag Syndrome’s Liberty Festival performance

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: London Horror Festival shows set to appear at The Space for the first time

The former church will host as series of productions as part of the 2021 festival from October 19-31

Birdwatching is set in a bitterly cold forest
Birdwatching is set in a bitterly cold forest
BIRDWATCHING
Miranda Barrett’s new one act play sees three young people engaged in making a horror film in the middle of a bitterly cold forest. Expect creeping dread punctuated by moments of terror as old hates and fears are laid bare as the light starts to die. 
Oct 22-24, times vary, £15
Livestream Oct 24, £10

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For those who enjoy the tingle of fear creeping up their spinal columns, there can be few places better to watch a chiller unfold than in the shadowy confines of a 162-year-old former church. 

So devotees of the sinister, rejoice –  for the first time in its 11-year history, a serious slice of the London Horror Festival, is set to carve up the foul and fetid air at The Space arts centre. Seven shows will grace the stage at the Isle Of Dogs venue from October 19-31, with many also livestreamed on specific dates. 

The Space’s artistic director Adam Hemming said: “This is the first year we’ve been involved and we’re very excited to be hosting these shows.

“We’ve been programming a bit of horror here and there for a while, so the venue is quite well set up for spooky shows.

“It’s a really mixed bag of work – what I really love about the festival is the different ways the artists involved are telling these stories.

“There are some pieces of new writing, there’s an LGBTQIA+ play, there’s a cabaret night and there are some one-person shows and an interactive piece by someone who works in gaming and has created an immersive work and then there’s a musical.

“One of the highlights will be the first show on the bill, One Man Poe is by an actor – Stephen Smith – who did The Black Cat earlier this year when we were still in lockdown and we couldn’t have audiences.

“He performed the play on Zoom, essentially as a one-shot film that followed him round the entire venue. He’s an incredible performer.

“The fact he’s doing four Edgar Allan Poe stories in one evening for this performance is going to be pretty extraordinary. 

“We’ve been livestreaming since the beginning of the year and we’ve seen some of the work produced this way nominated for awards so we’ve got really good at it. If you’re not able to get to The Space, it’s a really great option. It also means we can make the productions available for longer for people to access.”

The festival’s other productions will be performed at The Pleasance theatre in Islington.

Look out for these shows at The Space

Stephen Smith starts in One Man Poe
Stephen Smith starts in One Man Poe
ONE MAN POE 
Stephen Smith faithfully brings four of gothic horror godfather Edgar Allan Poe's tales to life using the original text from the 1840s. An insane asylum inmate describes a murder he has just committed, a prisoner undergoes torture in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, a mad alcoholic shares his story and a man laments the loss of his lover when a raven visits his chamber.
Oct 29-31, times vary, £15
Nightmares is a horror musical to watch online
Nightmares is a horror musical to watch online
NIGHTMARES

This online watch-party allows audience members to gather virtually for a horror musical that tells the story of a man plagued by nightmares and visions who wakes with no memory of who he is or what he’s done. Nothing is what it seems and, naturally, there’s a corpse in the cellar. 
Oct 28, 6pm, £10
Expect magic, drugs and wolves in To Be A Bat
Expect magic, drugs and wolves in To Be A Bat
TO BE A BAT
This new play explores the unreality of magic, corrosive grief and a queer coming of age fractured by loss as Moi seeks to deal with the death of brother Jo through virtual modelling, drugs and consultation with a sometimes-wolf in a cemetery. 
Oct 29-31, times vary, £15
Livestream Oct 31, £10
Can you stop this happening?
Can you stop this happening?
STOP IT
This immersive experience was once a kids’ show that’s lost its nature to the decay of time. Via endless performances to dust and cobwebs the actors have gone mad, their minds tortured by nonsensical cues. Audience members are simply challenged to put a stop to it. 
Oct 29-31, times vary, £15
Glamour and creepy burlesque await
Glamour and creepy burlesque await
TALES OF THE CRYPT CABARET
Glamorous ghouls, creepy burlesque and art performance – what’s not to like? See Marquissa Darq disappear into a melting pot of plastic surgery, Gypsy Viva hiding a dark secret, Foxy Velour who isn’t what she seems and Lady Lazarus. Expect puppetry, nudity, videography and live acts. 
Oct 26-28, 8pm, £15
Livestream Oct 28, £10
James Swanton stars in Irving Undead
James Swanton stars in Irving Undead
IRVING UNDEAD
Join Henry Irving’s restless spirit as he tells the story of how he transformed himself from a stuttering, spindly country boy into the most formidable actor of the 19th century. This resurrection of the greatest horror star of his day comes from actor James Swanton – the story of a man unable to escape his monsters even in death.
Oct 22-24, times vary, £15

Livestream Oct 24, £10

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