Live at Zédel

Reporter: Sandra Giorgetti

Dateline: 28th August, 2016

Something familiar, Something peculiar, Something for everyone: A comedy tonight!

Theatre, cabaret and comedy programming is the preserve of Hannah Hauer–King who I met up with earlier this month.

Discussing family connections with Hannah (Jeremy King's first wife was American theatre producer Debra Hauer) seemed a little pointless since this young woman is well on the way to making a name for herself.

A graduate of Georgetown University (in Washington, DC), Hannah worked in the US before returning to London.

As resident associate director at Soho Theatre she assisted on Radiant Vermin and directed Fury there earlier this summer for Damsel Productions, an all–female company she set up with Kitty Wordsworth.

Damsel's début production, the UK première of Dry Land by Ruby Rae Spiegel at London's Jermyn Street Theatre last year, also directed by Hannah, enjoyed four and five star reviews.

Not bad for someone in their mid–20s. She attributes her success to "really, really hard work and guts".

Press attention has come to the company not just because of the plays’ controversial subjects but because of the company's intent to buck the industry's gender inequality.

Hannah hopes one day to also make a mark in tackling the imbalance that exists between the representation of same–sex male and same-sex female relationships in theatre; whilst the former are becoming normalised, gay female work remains significantly under represented.

For the time being though she is focussing on Live at Zédel.

Fast rising comedy duo Omar & Lee’s We Are All Idiots, Amelia Ryan’s Lady Liberty and James Rowland’s Team Viking are amongst those booked for the Fresh Out Of Fringe mini season.

For this Hannah is keen to offer slots to those who might not necessarily get a London run elsewhere and has an eye out for developing new acts who could potentially become acts in residence. 

Current resident artists are drag group DENIM who share the cabaret slots with Miss Hope Springs, Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist La Voix and magic, burlesque, music and mime show House of Q.

For theatre events, she admits that the size of the stage can be a limiting factor—it is roughly 6 metres by 3—but she has plenty of ideas and fringe theatre, all too scarce in central London, will be offered by a number of companies.

Shows currently on the schedule include a pair of monologues, one character a Northern–Irish woman and the other an Israeli woman, in Double Trouble, Doll's Eye Theatre's Might Never Happen, about unwanted attention and harassment, Theatre With Legs' Digs and two shows from Gimcrack Productions.

There are also two associate companies Damsel Productions and Etch Theatre Company.

Initially the runs are quite short "but", Hannah says "my dream for next year—once we’re a little bit more established—is that we will have more longevity, a two or three week run here and there".

"I have considered doing daytime rehearsed readings too" she explains "and may be read-throughs of new writing, even masterclasses and workshops.

"This will start small and hopefully evolve. They will be free ticketed events so my hope is that they will attract actors, other artists, people who freelance and anyone who has a free afternoon."

She sees Zédel as a place that offers community with the diversity of the programme inviting in all–comers who will want to linger after the show for a drink in the bar or drop by for a meal or coffee even if they're not seeing anything, because they feel comfortable there.

Her enthusiasm for the venue is contagious and she thinks of success for Live at Zédel's first season in terms of the excitement it creates as well as a more pragmatic bottom line.

It's a view shared by Zédel's super–friendly general manager, Angel Alleyne: "we want people to get excited about the space and the huge range of things going on here—they’ll want to come back to see more, but not necessarily more of the same".

The Live at Zédel inaugural season is unapologetically casting its net wide—Hannah described it as "a litmus test"—and depending on your point of view the programme can look interestingly eclectic or a little messy.

Established performers share evenings with emerging artists. There are special weeks—food week, women’s week—there are theatre, comedy, spoken word, cabaret and music sets in Crazy Coqs, plus events in the Brasserie.

But if Live at Zédel is going to shake up the Soho scene and get that audience with a wide-ranging demographic which it seeks then it has to stick its neck out—and remember that fortune favours the bold.

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