Theatre returns to grand old venue

Jared Ashe, the producer of two new shows in Walthamstow, looks forward to welcoming local people

Mirth, Marvel and Maud

Mirth, Marvel and Maud opened within the former EMD/Granada cinema building in 2015

You probably already know about the EMD/Granada cinema building in Hoe Street, with its history dating back to 1887 and including performances from The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and even a visit from a young Alfred Hitchcock.

Indeed this place has long been an essential part of the Waltham Forest community. The building was sadly closed in 2003, but has now re-opened as a pub and restaurant called Mirth Marvel and Maud. Following renovation, music, comedy, film and theatre are making a return to the historic venue.

I have been working with Door Ajar Theatre to produce two shows this Christmas in their new performance space – Maud. It’s a beautifully renovated ‘fleapit’ cinema screening room, now playing host to a whole range of shows.

Firstly, during the day, The Little Match Girl & The Fir Tree is a double-bill of Hans Christian Andersen stories, brought to life with puppetry and live music, for ages three years and upward.

In the evening, Around the World on Christmas Day is a brand new off-beat comedy celebrating Christmas tales and traditions from around the world. This one is recommended for adults and older children, aged over ten years. There’s something for everyone, with music, song, comedy, festive cheer, and the ‘Christmas goat’.

I got involved with the project through Door Ajar Theatre’s artistic director – we both trained at the same college. She’d been approached by Mirth, Marvel and Maud to present a Christmas double bill. As she is also writing the evening show, I came on board as producer to oversee the project and bring everything together, so she could concentrate on the writing. We put together a full creative team, including directors, designers and stage managers. It’s a really exciting group of people with an incredible range of talents and ideas.

We’ve also got a fantastic cast of four who are performing both shows. As well as being fine actors and singers, they’re all excellent musicians, and we’ve filled both shows with live music and song. It’s a joy seeing them move between a whole range of characters, picking up guitars, flutes, costumes, props; even bringing a singing carp puppet to life.

One of the most rewarding parts of this process has been talking to local residents and hearing how excited they are about having more theatre happening locally. Where I live in South London, our local theatres have recently gone into administration – it’s a real blow to the community and it’s hard not to feel a sense of loss.

For most, a trip into the West End is just too expensive to be anything other than a very occasional indulgence. It’s really important to have affordable theatre happening where people live, so that everyone can experience live performance. There really is nothing like it!

I’m passionate about this and it’s been a joy to see people walking past the venue, peering through the window, asking about what’s happening, and hearing their stories and memories of the building and the area.

I spoke to one lady who had seen Jerry Lee Lewis play at the Granada in the 1970s – I’m not sure we’ll be able to top that, but it’s an honour to be working in a building with such history.

Our main aim for this Christmas season is to get as many people from the local area in to see the shows as we can. We’ve got two wonderful productions and it’s a privilege to be performing them in such a unique and important venue. Hopefully the people of Waltham Forest will share this passion, have a great afternoon or evening out with us, and we can come back next year.

Both The Little Match Girl & The Fir Tree and Around the World on Christmas Day run from 6th–24th December. For times and tickets: