Old and new friends at the Warehouse
Martin Westlake, one of our Angels, writes about why he wanted to play his part in the future of the Warehouse.
My first memories of the Warehouse Theatre came through my membership of the Brussels Writers’ Workshop and my writer friends’ activities. In April, 2008, I enjoyed a performance of Vincent Eaton’s hilarious Max Dix: Zero to Six. In March the following year I came back to enjoy Loretta Stanley’s poignant Edith. And in November 2010 I was privileged to see the late, great John Boyle’s acting swansong in an excellent production of Brian Friel’s Translations. All three were produced by the Irish Theatre Group.
In December 2011, following a kind invitation from director Conrad Toft, John Howard performed touchingly three monologues I had written around the death of my father, ‘Ever the Gent’, as part of the English Comedy Club’s Families aren’t just for Christmas. I sat in on some of the rehearsals and rediscovered an amdram gene that had lain dormant since my school days. In May 2017 my farce, The Impotence of Being Frank (a sort of homage to Oscar Wilde and Joe Orton) was produced at the Warehouse by the English Comedy Club. It was a fascinating privilege to watch Hugh Dow’s crisp production and the excellent cast having a lot of fun with the script. I also got to appreciate the stage-managing skills of Kerry Lydon and the lighting and sound skills of Steve O’Byrne. The play was reprised at the Warehouse in May 2019, with Hugh Dow again directing and a few changes to the cast, before going to Munich as the ECC’s FEATS entry that year (where a great time was had by all).
In October 2019, Little Seal produced my set of six monologues, Sons and Mothers, at the Warehouse, which also marked my Brussels acting debut. This was an altogether more demanding experience, but also an insightful one. It was not just the challenge of learning the lines and re-learning how to be directed (expertly and sensitively by Barry O’Halpin). The pieces were, by their nature, harrowing and emotionally draining and, in the nature of all monologues, the exposure was total, with no prompts possible.
But through its architecture the good old Warehouse Theatre added two additional challenging dimensions. The first is the proximity of the audience – which is a particular thrill for the people sitting in the first row, but a potential distraction for the actor (it certainly was for this one). The second is the small room offstage where, for smaller productions, the cast assembles and waits. For three nights, as the lights went down, the whole cast (minus whichever one of us was on stage) sat in total silence, separated from the audience only by a curtain. I’m almost certain that never again will I sit silently for three nights in the green room at the Warehouse Theatre with seven other people. We were all so very close and it was all so intimate and almost mystical in its intensity.
I have immense affection and admiration for everybody involved in my own productions. What a pleasure and a privilege to see gifted people turning my mere words into collaborative art! Of course, I have seen and enjoyed many other productions at the Warehouse over the years. Now, though, I feel I know the place intimately and whenever I go there it feels like I’m visiting an old friend.
Without the Warehouse Theatre the cultural scene in Brussels would be so much the poorer. Having myself derived so much pleasure from it over the years, it was the least I could do to make a donation. Long may it flourish!