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Isle Of Dogs: How Leslie Nkansah is set to take over food at The Space Bar

The arts centre, restaurant and bar on Westferry Road is getting a new head chef, formerly of Fat Boy’s Diner

The Space Bar’s new head chef, Leslie Nkansah

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Tere’s something brewing at The Space, steeping, infusing, intensifying.

Ingredients are coming together and there’s change in the air.

That’s because The Space Bar – the arts centre’s food, drink and occasional event venue – is all set to welcome a new head chef.

Leslie Nkansah became a cook “by mistake”. Unsure of what to do after leaving school in Shepherd’s Bush at 16, a careers advisor mentioned the idea of an apprenticeship.

“They said I’d get paid while I worked and a qualification as well, so I went along,” said Les.

“That was at Mezzo in Wardour Street, which was owned by Conran.

“It was one of the biggest restaurants in Europe at the time and I spent four years there under head chef John Torode.”

Suffice to say, the Masterchef presenter isn’t the only big name influence on Leslie’s CV.

From Mezzo, he went on to work with Henry Harris of Hush and Racine fame, spent a year in Switzerland and came back to the UK to work with Gordon Ramsay, opening the York And Albany near Regent’s Park – now closed and recently occupied by squatters.

“I fell into doing a few events after that like Royal Ascot and then went back to work for John Torode at Smith’s Of Smithfield, where I was head chef in 2011,” said Leslie.

“I was then asked by them if I’d like to go back to Switzerland as they were opening a restaurant and I spent three years working there mainly in the ski season. 

“That’s when I heard about the super yachts – people would head down from the mountains to Nice and Antibes, so I jumped on that.

“I worked on some amazing vessels – the amount of money and produce just blew me away. You can’t experience how those people live until you’re in that environment. 

“I stayed out there until 2017, when I decided to come back to England – I had some savings and decided to start Black Star Kitchen.

“I got the name from the Ghanaian flag – my dad’s from Ghana and my mum’s half Scottish.” 

Having returned to the UK, Leslie set about cooking anything and everything – including creating pop-up Ten Radius, a fine dining residency in Brighton where 80% of the ingredients were sourced from within 10 miles of the venue.

“Then Covid hit and put a spanner in the works for a lot of things,” he said. “After the pandemic, I found Fat Boy’s Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

“I took that on for just over a year but unfortunately the footfall and the cost of living crisis meant my pockets weren’t deep enough to keep it going. 

“That was a shame because it’s a beautiful establishment and I had a lot of ideas and plans for it.”

Bar board chair at The Space, Andrew Finnegan

a move to the Island

It was also there that Leslie met Andrew Finnegan, bar board chair at The Space, whose interest was piqued by a serving of deep-fried olives.

Discussions that started around Leslie doing a pop-up took a different turn when a vacancy for head chef at the venue came up.

Now he’s set to take over the kitchen full-time from mid May, 2024.

“We relaunched the kitchen approximately 18 months ago and we always knew that food was one of the levers we could pull to increase trade at the venue to support the work The Space does,” said Andrew.

“We’d launched brunch in October and the idea was to have pop-ups and guest chefs.

“Pre-Covid it was a lively spot and now we have a full-time chef again, we want to get back to that. 

“Menu-wise it’s about getting re-established, attracting that footfall and then we can experiment.” 

fresh direction

Leslie added: “I got really excited when I saw the building and the outside space – there’s so much potential.

“I want to create a community hub where people can come to meet up, grab a good snack and mingle. 

“Everyone needs a place where they can come, no matter what their background, have good food and good drinks and enjoy the vibes – that’s my intention.

“Food-wise I’m looking at doing the same sort of thing I was doing at Fat Boy’s.

“There will be burgers and snacks, but I also want to play around with traditional English dishes like scotch eggs.

“I have a vegetarian one with beetroot and another where I use duck to coat the eggs.

“The layout at The Space is quite informal, so it will be grab-and-go – accessible dishes.”

supporting The Space

The plan is very much to make use of Leslie’s talents to build up the venue, with dishes that fit alongside the multitude of shows and events it hosts.

Andrew said: “It will be really nice when we get this going.

“Our brunches have been successful and their growth has been organic – people try it once and then come back.

“The more people who come here for the food and drink means the more money The Space has and the more shows it can put on its stage.”

While the bar has naturally been a stop-off for those coming to the Island for performances, it’s long played a dual role as a meeting point and welcoming haven for local residents.

Initially Leslie’s menus will aim to serve both communities with dishes appealing to wide audiences. 

However, further down the line there will hopefully be scope to experiment – an obvious step with such serious talent in the kitchen.

“I really do like to cook everything,” said Leslie.

“I love good ingredients, I love playing with food and putting ingredients in which wouldn’t normally go together and seeing if they work.

“At the moment, I’m really getting into fermenting things.

“Of course I like cooking traditional dishes – I’ve learnt from every kitchen I’ve been in – and I think my Sunday roast is among the best in the country – although that’s yet to be proven.

“I also love smoking meat, brisket or even cauliflower. I like sweet flavours with spice – lots of chillies but with maple syrup.

“My signature dish was wood pigeon with trompet mushroom puree, caramelised shallot and tapenade.

“If all this works out, I definitely want to discuss the idea of a supper club here.”

We can’t wait… 

key details

The Space is located in Westferry Road on the Isle Of Dogs and is easily reached in less than 10 minutes from Canary Wharf via the D7, 277 or 135 direct buses.

Current opening hours for The Space Bar are noon-11pm Mon-Thurs, noon-midnight on Fridays, 10am-midnight on Saturdays and 10am-10.30pm on Sundays.

Find out more about The Space Bar here

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Isle Of Dogs: How They’ll Never Close The Docks offers entertainment and an education as it arrives at The Space

Steven Shawcroft’s latest play is set to be performed by SpaceWorks, the venue’s company

Playwright and performer Steven Shawcroft of SpaceWorks

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“The title is a tribute to former SpaceWorks member Albert Lechley – a born and bred East Ender and stand-up performer who is sadly no longer with us,” said Steven Shawcroft.

“One of his things that he believed was that they’d never close the docks – and it was a real shock when it actually happened.

“It was something he wanted to explore in a show, but never got the chance to talk about properly.

“Knowing his style of performance, the SpaceWorks group and its performers’ capabilities, I thought we should try and see what we could come up with.”

SpaceWorks is the in-house participatory theatre company at The Space on the Isle Of Dogs, which offers anyone interested in developing performance skills or gaining backstage experience a safe and supportive environment to try new things, meet new people and get creative.

It runs workshops and regular Monday evening sessions as well as staging a number of productions over the year.

Its latest show, They’ll Never Close The Docks, is set to run for three performances over April 5 and 6, 2024.

Written by Steven, under the pen name George Leyland, it’s directed by The Space’s artistic director Adam Hemming and promises audiences tales drawn from a 200-year period.

“The basic premise of the play is a rough history of the docks, their opening and growth in the 1800s and their eventual closure in the 1980s, with the recurring theme being the locals’ belief that the industry would always be there,” said Steven, a former pupil at George Green’s School on the Island.

“To do that I’ve written a select number of scenes – there’s no way we could squeeze all of that history into an hour, so we’ve been quite specific, making sure they are relevant to the docks.

“I’ve always been fascinated by East End history, having been born and grown up in Poplar and going to school on the Isle Of Dogs.

“I’m just about old enough to remember Canary Wharf going up, but not old enough to remember anything before that.

“My hope is that people enjoy watching the play and that there’s enough of a message in it for people to take away something of what was here before.

“This area is such a melting pot so there will be people with varying degrees of knowledge of it and its history. 

“It’s intended as a reminder for people who have lived through some of it and a bit of an education for others who aren’t so familiar with the area.

“There are some heavier moments, but it’s still quite a light piece.

“We’re trying to get a bit of a sense that things do change.”

Steven has been an on-off member of SpaceWorks for about 14 years, performing in multiple productions as well as writing works for the venue and other theatres.

“The company was in its infancy when I joined in 2010, having been going a couple of years,” he said.

“It was just putting on its first proper production, a play by Shakespeare, which was a big undertaking with a lot of people – but we managed to get through it.

“That’s really the spirit of the group – no matter what we are given, we all come together and push through to the other side.”

This common drive reflects, perhaps, the strength of community captured in Steven’s work, which will be brought to life by a largely local cast and creative team.

Michelle Sansom is set to appear in the production

“Not all of them are originally from east London, but a lot of them work in Canary Wharf, so they’re interested in the history as well, which is good,” said Michelle Sansom, one of the actors who will appear in the production and who has also been with SpaceWorks for more than a decade. 

“One of the things that strikes me about the play, which Steven has been able to capture, is that, although there have been changes, some things are still the same.

“It talks about the dockers going on strike for more pay, but the people in charge failing to understand their demands – that was back in the 1800s, so some things never change.

“The spirit of the people comes through really well in the play, and that’s always been the case for places like the docks, where people work together.

“I’m in the first scene as a docker, playing opposite Emma Fayter.

“My character has earned enough money to not work for a couple of days, which is unusual, but he’s feeling quite agitated.

“It shows general dock life in 1820 – he’s been working on the docks all his life and will never be able to do anything else – but the expectation is he won’t need to.

“The scene portrays the uncertainty of the time – back then, coins were tossed out and, if you got one, you had a job for that day.

“My character likes his mates and he likes his rum.

“Personally, I grew up in Cable Street and I now live in Newham – I’m proud to come from the East End and I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years.

“I find the history fascinating.”

Emma Fayter will also perform in They’ll Never Close The Docks

Emma joined SpaceWorks just before Steven and Michelle, coming along initially to keep a friend company who was connected with the venue.

She said: “I am really grateful that I did because it transformed my life. I hadn’t done any acting before, except for one play in school, and I messed that up. 

“But it’s been brilliant and I’ve stuck with it ever since – I think I’ve missed only a couple of performances over the years.

“I love the sense of community, it’s really inclusive – there’s a great mix of ages and cultures.

“I moved to the Island in the 1980s before Canary Wharf and the DLR were here.

“I didn’t know much about the history of the island when I came here, and it had a quite derelict feel about it.

“We bought our first house on the island – they had a scheme to hold down the prices because we were council tenants in Stepney, so we got a good deal.

“I have a couple of roles in They’ll Never Close The Docks.

“I’m playing opposite Michelle in the first scene and we have a blokey kind of relationship. 

“We do care about each other but there’s a bit of a rift because I haven’t been into work. 

“There are a lot of layers to the play and people can see the unspoken side of their relationship.

“Then I’m in a later scene as a strong woman with an old-school husband who just wants to watch football and not do anything else.

“There’s also a young girl, who she babysits in the scene, and they support each other in standing up to the men.

“It’s at the time of the Brixton Riots and my character is talking about how we ought to do something to support them.”

Steven added: “Going over all the history it was really about picking out moments.

“Certain events do blend into each other – the docks were finally closed just before the riots, for example.

“Then there was the time the Port Of London Authority brought all the docks together, which was happening at the same time as the Suffragette movement, so there are references to that as well. 

“There’s also a post-Blitz scene in an Isle Of Dogs pub with songs to lighten things up.

“I was concerned it might be too corny, but the Queenie Watts documentary confirms this was basically what people were doing.

“I’ve written the show as a reflection of the area and I hope that comes across in the show itself.” 

diary dates

They’ll Never Close The Docks is at The Space on April 5 and 6, 2024, with shows at 7.30pm on both days and also at 3pm on the Saturday.

Audiences can choose between tickets costing £10, £15 or £20. The play will also be streamed online.

Find out more about They’ll Never Close The Docks here

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Isle Of Dogs: How Ottisdotter is bringing Henrik Ibsen’s Lady Inger to The Space

Specialists in lesser-known works are set to perform the playwright’s most brutal work

Mark Ewbank, joint artistic director of Ottisdotter

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The Space arts centre on the Isle Of Dogs is gearing up for 10 performances of a rarely seen work by Henrik Ibsen.

Specialising in lesser known and obscure plays that feature the oppression and subversion of women in society, theatre company Ottisdotter is set to present Lady Inger as June turns into July. 

“It’s by the second most performed playwright in the world after Shakespeare, but Ibsen is most famous for his last 12 works,” said Mark Ewbank, joint artistic director of the company.

“He actually wrote 26 and for a decade we have been exploring his earlier canon – the pieces he wrote while he was developing as a playwright.

“Lady Inger is fascinating because it is based on the history of Norway and people who actually existed.

“Ibsen took some liberties with the story to make it more dramatic, but in essence it is a medieval epic from the 1500s.

“Lady Inger is trapped between two opposing powers. Norway was a kind of region of Denmark at that time and the Norwegians were subjugated by both Sweden and Denmark.

“Lady Inger herself represents the nearest thing Norway has to a queen but, as it’s a regional province, she’s a bit like Nicola Sturgeon – the head of a devolved nation – and she has to make sure that everybody else is happy.

“Nils Lykke represents Denmark and has come to Norway to make sure Lady Inger is being consistent with what his country would like.

“There are also some Swedish rebels who want Lady Inger to support their cause, so that Norway can become free. In the play, she is really stuck between a rock and a hard place while trying to get the best for her country.

“Ibsen is famous for writing about women and this piece shows a female leader who is trying to do as well as possible for her people.

“The ultimate story of the play – without any spoilers – is that everybody is undermining her and even her own people are sceptical about a woman being up to the job.

“You’ve got Denmark trying to play political games with her – to test her – and Sweden trying to work out if they should support her.

“One of the reasons it’s so rarely put on stage is that this is a medieval epic and most companies don’t want to do one.

“It’s very like Game Of Thrones – quite a big piece to put together.

Kristin Duffy plays the titular Lady Inger in the forthcoming production

“It was the first play Ottisdotter – which takes its name from Lady Inger’s surname – put on back in 2013 and it was a wild success.

“Lots of people are interested in Ibsen and wanted to see it – there was a gap in the market because everyone does The Doll’s House or Hedda Gabler, but not his early works.”

Helping flesh out the story this time round are Kristin Duffy in the titular role and Ivan Comisso as complex antagonist and Danish emissary Nils Lykke.

“Lady Inger is like Hilary Clinton – someone who’s spent her entire life feeling the call to be a leader for her people,” said Kristin, who auditioned for the part after learning about the production via The Space’s newsletter.

“Despite her qualifications for the role, she’s continually brought down by the men around her.

“Like Hilary, Lady Inger gets a reputation as someone who is not always so kind but that’s because she’s constantly beaten down.

“When I saw this role come up, I read the whole script and thought it was such an interesting, three-dimensional character that I wanted to audition.

“The play is written in a way that makes portraying Lady Inger challenging because like all the characters, she is flawed.”

“In the play, I’m very much the underminer,” said Ivan, who appeared in Ottisdotter’s previous show at The Space – Emilia Galotti in 2016 and recently starred in emerging Netflix rugby hit In From The Side.

“You would consider Nils the antagonist but he has his own agenda.

“Denmark is technically the owner of Norway at the time, so as a Dane he’s come in, sniffing out trouble from the Norwegians and the Swedish. He’s there to keep an eye on things.

“He’s a very interesting character. Ibsen portrays a lot of his thought processes and there are a few asides between him and Lady Inger.

“You can see these political titans going head to head and this is one of the main driving forces of the play.

“I always call it a political drama like House Of Cards.

“It’s fun to see these people circle each other – almost as equals, even though Norway is subjugated.

“This is what Ibsen does with women, he portrays incredibly powerful female characters who go head to head with men and convention.”

Ivan Comisso plays antagonist Nils Lykke in Ottisdotter’s Lady Inger

Key to Ottisdotter’s decision to revive the play is its continued resonance despite dealing with events hundreds of years ago.

“It’s exciting to see this play because it could be a contemporary work,” said Mark.

“The play is set in 1528 and Ibsen was writing it in 1855, but you could say the things that happen in it are still happening to this day.

“It demonstrates the theatrical machinations that Ibsen had to go through to show that women are poisoned by society and could only succeed if they were not continually undermined.

“His work represented the birth of realism in the theatre and has that timeless quality to it.

“Every one of his works shows how Ibsen thought society shaped us and how it continues to do that.

“None of his plays needs to be situated in Norway, for example. They could be set anywhere in the world. His focus is on how people interact as human beings. 

“We’re also lucky with the setting. The Norwegian Embassy sent me to Trondheim in 2013 to research our first production so I’ve seen Lady Inger’s castle with its whitewashed walls and ironwork.

“The Space can easily represent a medieval castle so the work and the theatre go together really well. 

“Ibsen plays are generally best when they are presented with minimalist design and we’ll be performing it in the round so the audience really becomes part of the production.

“The actors will be in amongst the audience so they can really feel the energy.

“Without giving anything away, Lady Inger ends with a twist – there’s no happy ever after.

“It’s known as Ibsen’s most brutal play and it’s definitely one for audience members to digest.

“In a way, people have to provide their own ending – nothing is wrapped up in a bow for you and it continues to make people think long after they have seen it.

“It’s such a rich work that, even after all this time when we’re rehearsing it it’s still possible for me and the cast to find new things in the piece. 

“Because we have a cast of such talented actors, they push our understanding of the piece. Come and see it for yourselves.”

  • Lady Inger is set to run at The Space from June 27-July 8, 2023. Performances start at 7.30pm and tickets cost £16. 

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Isle Of Dogs: How Ten Days at The Space brings Russia’s Revolution into the present

Theatre maker Matthew Jameson talks putting history on stage to reflect our troubling times

Theatre maker Matthew Jameson has created Ten Days

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History isn’t something that exists trapped between the pages of dusty books, for Matthew Jameson.

The playwright, actor and director doesn’t just see echoes of the past in the present – for him, it’s much more immediate than that.

So his forthcoming production at The Space on the Isle Of Dogs may be the story of what happened between February and October 1917 as the Tsar was overthrown and the communists rose to power. But it’s something else as well.

“I didn’t want Ten Days to be a piece of historical theatre, something that happened more than 100 years ago, which we can only learn lessons from,” he said.

“These kinds of things are ongoing around us, so I wanted the play to be in a contemporary setting – Europe 2023 – scarily close to where we are now.

“The characters are in modern dress and we have a diverse cast who will better reflect our own times than Russia in 1917.

“We also have a lot of video and tech to help to convey some of the scale of the events we want to portray.”

The production is set to run on various dates at the east London arts centre from March 14-25, 2023, with performances at 7.30pm and a pair of Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.

Matthew said: “People should look forward to something epic – it’s a story that covers the breadth and scale of the overthrow of Russia’s ruling family, the establishment of a provisional government and the eventual rise of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

“It has a cast of 10, of which I am one, and we’ll all be playing multiple roles.

“Among others, I’ll be Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko  the unlikely leader of the assault on the Winter Palace – a slightly baffled, befuddled and depraved man.

Ten Days is something I’ve been working on for about a decade.

“I completed a masters in dramaturgy part-time over the last couple of years and the focus of that was on creating a play as a final project – this was the vehicle to complete it.

“It’s gone through various iterations and I’d never quite finished the draft, but through doing the course, I’ve now completed the whole thing – redrafting, streamlining and editing to reflect the ongoing chaos the world seems to be experiencing.”

Matthew isn’t new to putting real events from the past on stage.

Raised in the North East, he’d always wanted to be a performer and became involved with a company called the Heretical Historians whose play The Trial Of Le Singe brought him to The Space for the first time in 2017.

“That was as a visiting actor, but I really enjoyed being part of this institution,” he said.

“The play was about the story of the Hartlepool monkey and we were doing this post-Brexit, reflecting the idea of a conflicted, anti-European England.

“That’s when I first found The Space and I’ve never really left.

“A lot of the Heretical Historians’ stuff was telling previously untold true stories from history and bringing them to life for a modern audience.

Ten Days is set to run at The Space from March 14-25, 2023

Ten Days feels like an extension of that. It’s a new company – BolshEpic Theatre – and it’s all about bringing the truth of history to life and making it accessible.

“A lot of my previous work was focused primarily on comedy and entertainment.

“Now I feel there’s a lot of stuff happening in the world that requires our response to be a bit more measured and serious.

“Within that, telling the story of the Russian Revolution is something that is directly relevant to the present. 

“Although there’s a lot of entertainment in the story we’re telling, there are also more serious parallels we need to explore, and you can’t do that simply through comedy, although it does help the medicine go down.

“There is the war in Europe at the moment and the apparent collapse of some democracies across the world – it’s been exhausting to keep up with what’s been happening while writing.

“What I want is for audiences to be able to take a look at what it means to live through a crisis and to ask: ‘What hope can we have for democracy?’.

Ten Days doesn’t give a definitive answer to that, we just present what happened. In Russia back then there was mass industrial action and it feels like we’re getting close to a general strike now.

“They had four heads of state in the space of a year. We’ve had three prime ministers and two monarchs.

“I don’t know whether that’s a cause for optimism that things can change, or a cause for worry that things could get worse.

“I think that in Russia in 1917 they really didn’t expect a revolution and that was one of the fundamental things that caught everyone by surprise.

“It’s not something that tallies with the Soviet version of history – a planned uprising of the people – or the rightist take – a well-calculated palace coup.

“The revolution was something in between, which was messier and muckier and, as a result, far more real and funny.

“What we’ve found is people don’t necessarily know that in the period between the Tsar and the Bolsheviks there was an elected government, where Russia could have turned into a European-style democracy.

“In Ten Days, we take things chronologically with a Sergei Eisenstein-style short film sequence showing the story as you think you know it – Lenin comes in and chucks the Tsar out, resulting in freedom for the people.

“That isn’t what happened but you need to see it as a reminder.

“There’s something about the truth of history that fiction never quite matches up to.

“As a writer you can aspire to be as absurd and ridiculous as you like, but as soon as you write something as silly as the truth people often won’t believe it.

“Hopefully, people will see our posters and think: ‘Lenin – OK, let’s see what this is about,’ but they may not know the other figures so it’s a way of introducing them to the audience.”

Tickets for Ten Days start at £5 and are sold on a pay-what-you-choose basis

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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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