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Magicians open 20-seat theatre in former shop space

Jasper Blakeley and his business partner, Bryan Gunton Jasper Blakeley and Bryan Gunton
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A theatre with 20 seats, which is believed to be among the smallest in the UK, is to open in a former shop.

Called The Small Place, the venue is 16ft by 12ft and will be based in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan. It will open at the end of January after being given planning permission by the local authority this week.

The space is being created by magician Jasper Blakeley and his business partner, Bryan Gunton. It will host performances, magicians and theatre companies, as well as live music and private functions.

Blakeley told The Stage that the shop used to be owned by his wife, who had since moved to bigger premises. This led Blakeley to seek permission to change its use.

“I thought it was too good a space to let go. Bryan and I thought it would be great to have as a magicians’ theatre. The more it developed the more we thought it should just be a fully fledged theatre,” he said.

Blakeley said the theatre had bench seating at the back, coupled with chairs and cafe tables. The stage area will be 10ft by 4.5ft, on the flat, allowing it to be used “more flexibly” for events like jazz quartets, he said.

The magician said tickets will be priced at £20, and a bar in the space will contribute to income. The space will also be hired out for use in the day by community groups and performers looking for rehearsal space.

Despite being awarded permission to convert the shop into a theatre, Blakeley and Gunton’s proposal was originally rejected by the council, on the grounds it would impact on retail in the area.

“We have fought and overturned a major planning policy that says retail spaces have to stay as that. We had full cross-party support… who all wanted this space. They argued about our space for 90 minutes at committee and I gave an impassioned speech,” he said.

The space will open at the end of January with a week of events, yet to be announced.

Other small UK theatres include the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate, which has 60 seats.