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Brighton venue opens in abandoned chapel

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A new theatre in Brighton has opened this week in an abandoned chapel to “fill a gap in the market” for mid-sized venues hosting professional productions in the town.

Emporium, which is located on a high street close to the town centre, includes a 250-seat flexible theatre space and 130-seat studio.

James Weisz, the venue’s artistic director, said: “The reasoning behind opening this space is to fill a gap in the market – that is, a theatre space that has the capacity to cater for around 100 to 200 people. In Brighton we have places like the Theatre Royal, which has a 900-person capacity, and then you have venues at the other end of the scale that have about 60 seats. They all do their jobs brilliantly but we see that there is a need for a space that behaves as a receiving house, that is carefully programmed.”

The theatre has launched as a receiving venue, but in the future will begin to produce its own shows, starting with a pantomime this winter.

It will feature dance, theatre and opera productions, as well as cabaret performances. However, comedy and music gig nights will not be programmed as there are already “so many” venues hosting these events in Brighton, according to Weisz.

The chapel, which was built in 1894, has been empty since 2006. The venue has received no public funding so far and will rely on ticket sales and income from its canteen/bar, as well as hiring out its rehearsal space to remain self-sustaining.

Weisz added that he and venue manager Gary Blair want to provide visiting shows with the “whole package” by offering marketing support and helping to set up educational programmes with local schools.

He said: “We’re really trying to aim for the venue to act as a place for theatre professionals to network, meet up, talk to each other and have an idea for a show. There are similar places in Brighton that do that, but they are scattered and at the moment there is no central hub.”