It was closed for more than 500 days as a result of the pandemic but since reopening Torbay audiences have flooded back to show their support for the venue. Torbay’s Princess Theatre opened its doors again more than twelve months ago now, and to mark the occasion and remember the period during which theatres across the country went dark, they are unveiling a brand new art installation this September as part of Devon Open Studios.
Supported by Arts Council England the installation is one of four artist-led projects, focusing on the life and survival of regional theatres following the immense impact of covid on the arts. Each theatre is a regional, local UK theatre in the Ambassador Theatre Group, which also operates theatres across the globe from Broadway to the West End. The artworks would become a lasting contribution to each theatre and place, creating new relationships and community connections, with the mission of the project to embed artists’ work and creativity into the reopening programme and have a new conversation with audiences post covid.
Entitled Spotlight the year long residency and exhibition project celebrates the reopening of South Devon’s largest regional theatre, and has been created by artist Mellony Taper, who successfully won a commission led by Ambassador Theatre Group staff, Heritage & Community and Artizan Gallery.
The commission was an opportunity to delve into the theatre’s history, engage with its communities and staff and extract the stories contained within its walls, as well as explore Torquay’s heritage. From its coastal history and the bay’s shift from fishing to fashionable seaside resort, to Torquay’s unique natural environment and climate; from Bay to Stage.
Mellony is an interdisciplinary artist, working at the intersection of trad and digital media: painting, drawing, photography, exploratory digital creation strategies and time based media.
“My work is about people and places; I describe them as psychogeographies, people interacting with places, and the impacts of each upon the other.”
Mellony’s proposal was for a new series of work specifically tied to the theatre and its people – the staff, the building, the audiences, the stage – and she embarked on an extensive exploration process touring every inch of space, meeting and shadowing the teams, experiencing a show, documenting all the while to capture a view of the theatre unlike any other.
And this view is ultimately what Mellony has gone on to translate, from her experience to the final body of work, digital landscapes – or psychogeographies – in vivid colour that depict a building so full of energy, motion and feeling that it is almost impossible to conceive that for more than 500 days it all stood still.
Now, the works will be officially launched at the Princess Theatre with an evening viewing as part of Devon Open Studios on 20 September. This annual Devon event is the highlight of the South West arts calendar, organised by Devon Artist Network (DAN) which promotes, celebrates and champions the regions arts. For 16 days the networks’ members throw open their doors to visitors or otherwise occupy venues and spaces across the region, offering an intimate look at their work and practice, delivering demonstrations and running workshops for visitors to enjoy. For collectors it is truly an unmissable event.
Spotlight at the Princess Theatre is one of 18 venues audiences can visit in Torbay this year. To join for the launch event, Tuesday 20 September 6-8pm visit www.art-hub.co.uk/spotlight22pv where you can book tickets for the evening including a limited number of spaces for backstage tours.
Devon Open Studios runs from 10 to 25 September and Mellony’s work can be viewed at the Princess Theatre’s Bistro Café. For more information on the event and what’s happening across Torbay, visit www.artizangallery.co.uk/dos. For more information on Mellony Taper’s Spotlight visit www.art-hub.co.uk/spotlight22