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Beckenham barista to hold audience captive in new courtroom drama
From an old flat in Beckenham to a disused courthouse in Blackfriars, up-and-coming theatre company For Short is taking no prisoners. Heloise Wood talks to one of its founders, Matt Jessup.
TICKETS for theatre company Punchdrunk’s latest production may have sold out within a few hours but Beckenham-born artistic director Felix Barrett needs to be forgetful.
There is another bright, young thing from his home town who is making waves in the world of site-specific theatre.
Matt Jessup started up For Short with friends from Birmingham University and their first play took place in an empty flat in Beckenham.
Their next production - the UK premier of Anatomy of Murder - is being staged in a disused courthouse in Blackfriars in June and focuses on the first sensational case of a new defence attorney - a lieutenant is accused of murdering the bartender who allegedly raped his wife.
Matt is currently working part-time in coffee shop Fee and Brown in Beckenham High Street whilst preparing for the next production.
He said: “I love south east London, it’s so chilled out and there are a lot of creative things in Beckenham going on people probably don’t know about. I’ve lived here since I was five.
“I went along to Beckenham Theatre in Bromley Road when I was about eight and saw Peter Pan and wanted to get involved and so I did stage management and then I got into acting. I loved it.
“Then when I was university in Birmingham some friends and I decided to get together and start our own company.”
The 23-year-old revealed how they got a lot of people coming to their 2011 production in a disused flat in Southend Road, Beckenham, through word-of-mouth.
He said: “In terms of advertising, we just told local theatre groups and our friends and family and lots of people came along. We could only fit around 20 people in the living room which was the set anyway.
“The support we got from the Beckenham community was incredible. People might think we don’t notice them when they come to see our productions but we do and it means a lot.
“For example Bromley Little Theatre was so generous because they lent us a cast iron oven which was central to the plot and so many people were helpful.”
The English graduate is keen for young people to promote themselves in the theatre world and not worry about lack of experience.
He explained: “I think - just to go for it. Don’t hang around waiting for funding, just try and fund it yourself and try it and learn from it.
“And try and find your voice and stick with it. And be specific when you contact people, talk about the project and what you want - you can always apologise for being a pest later on.”
Anatomy of Murder is taking place from June 3 to 29. Tickets cost between £8 and £12.
For more information, call 020 7609 1800 or visit pleasance.co.uk/islington/events/anatomy-of-a-murder-by-elihu-winer