The new boss at New Wimbledon Theatre says he has big ambitions to restore the landmark venue on Wimbledon’s Broadway to its former glory and success.
“I see this place as a sleeping giant,” Nick Parr told the Culture Vulture, in an exclusive interview for LadyWimbledon.com. “I see no reason why this shouldn’t be the busiest theatre in London.”
Since he arrived two months ago Mr Parr has been consulting local influencers and community groups around SW19 as he draws up a ten year blueprint for New Wimbledon Theatre to reach its full potential.
His plans include updating the building to create a better customer experience for audiences and visiting performers. He wants to improve the seating, bars and toilets, and is considering an in-house bistro and a luxury lounge, as well as less glamorous work replacing ageing boilers and wiring.
His priority is to overhaul the programming of the main auditorium to attract a loyal following. There will be fewer tribute shows and one night performances, and more big touring shows that stay for a week or more. As a sign of things to come, two big musicals – Madagascar, and a new production of Saturday Night Fever – will open in Wimbledon this year.
Meanwhile Mr Parr is on the lookout to attract some “event” theatre – major productions of the calibre of the National Theatre’s War Horse – that will sell out, helping to create a buzz about everything NWT does.
He sees the studio theatre developing into a cool venue for comedy and music and experimental drama, where younger audiences could start their night on the town.
He is even considering inviting an opera company to make Wimbledon its home, in order to help transform the venue.
Mr Parr’s arrival and his plans for the future come after New Wimbledon Theatre was earmarked as one of four major regional theatres to receive special development measures.
ATG, the theatre group which rents the venue from Merton Council, has identified Wimbledon along with venues in Edinburgh and Manchester as theatres which are currently underperforming but have the potential to be the powerhouses of the future.
To lead the charge, experienced managers have been recruited from the forefront of the industry and given a free hand. Mr Parr was chief executive of Dundee Repertory Theatre.
He says that New Wimbledon Theatre is famous in the theatre industry for its grand history, but had suffered a long-running identity crisis over whether it was supposed to be a local community theatre or part of London’s West End.
New data had now conclusively proved that Wimbledon has its own strong local audience, who only need the right encouragement to become avid theatre-goers.
“We want people to come in earlier, and spend more time. We want the building to be a hub of cultural excitement,” said Mr Parr.“Wimbledon could absolutely become one of the powerhouse venues.”