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Innovative Live Theatre - Could This Be The New Norm?

Gwaryjy – Popp Theatre Truro

Catherine Lake and Jason Gerdes, co founders and presenters of the new Popp Theatre in Truro. Perspex arena and pods. The photos aren't brilliant, but hopefully you can see that everyone is separated in their own family groups and pods. Yes, the giant structures you have spotted are from the wonderful City of Lights - not part of the show, but this is their storage space.

Cornish word Gwaryjy translates to ‘theatre in the house’, or in this case an old carpet warehouse in Truro. The incredible pop up theatre opened the doors to an invited audience for a taster evening of upcoming shows and to gauge audience reaction to the innovative new way of enjoying live shows in a safe environment.

Praise of the very highest order must go to Jason Gerdes, the man behind the initial plan, and to Cat Lake for appreciating Jason’s vision and partnering up with him to make his crazy dream a reality. Safety is paramount from the start - audience members are met at the door with a warm welcome and a temperature check, staff at the venue are masked at all times and hand sanitisers are available. Audience members are requested to do their bit and stay masked unless they are seated in the pods or enjoying mince pies and a drink at the pop up bar.

The theatre itself is straight out of a Sci Fi movie with a tall perspex arena housing performers with audience members seated in their own perspex pods around the space; think 1984 meets Blade Runner in a gladiatorial bear pit and you get the idea.

Gwaryjy is the best of Christmas presents at the end of a year that has been a global nightmare, it shines a powerful beam of hope for the future of live performances and is providing an income for around 40 people, most of whom have earned nothing in 2020. Emotions were running high last night as Jason and Cat struggled to share the story of the enormous challenges they faced during the battle to get to where they are now, tears of exhaustion, relief and joy affected everyone making it impossible to spot a dry eye in the house.

Technicians involved in bringing everything to life in a concrete warehouse faced enormous technical headaches, but the clever tech heads have created truly brilliant sound and lighting.

To introduce us to the exciting upcoming programme at Gwaryjy, we were treated to a variety of taster performances. First up to get everyone in the Christmas mood with giggles and song, the much loved Cornish performer Johnny Cowling. This time last year Johnny was packing out Truro Cathedral with none of us anticipating what was to come; having no performances under his belt since March, Johnny revelled in being back on stage to sprinkle laughter and joy.

Our Atlantic Roots are a Cornwall based Indie Americana trio who treated us to their own brand of beautiful original songs. The talented trio already have a strong following, but picked up new fans last night as they held us spellbound throughout their performance.

Local writer and performer Olivia Lowry found her way through lockdown hell by writing prolifically, plans for a new play were shelved as Olivia turned her hand to poetry and stories. Olivia’s spoken words were captivating, but her final piece about finding ways to communicate with family proved to be almost too powerful as it struck chords within the audience. Had a pin dropped at the end the sound would have reverberated across Truro.

The final performance of the evening came from a high octane local dance school NV. The young performers gave their all, clearly thrilled to be showcasing their skills in a groundbreaking new theatre space.

There is a superbly varied line up of shows in place over Christmas and up to the end of January, including music, theatre and plenty of laughs. Due to the Covid safe set up at Gwaryjy there are a limited number of pods available and these are already selling well.

You can find out more about the theatre and book your pods for the upcoming performances via Gwaryjy’s Facebook page -


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Sheila Vanloo

December 2020

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