Theatreship: London's Newest Cultural Venue Is On A Boat

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By M@
Theatreship: London's Newest Cultural Venue Is On A Boat
Theatreship theatre in docklands
Image: Theatreship

It's being billed as "the UK's biggest independent floating theatre & cinema".

That's Theatreship, a new non-profit arts venue in Docklands. The aquatic cultural centre in South Quay occupies a 305 tonne dry-cargo ship. Its former hold is now a 100-seat cinema and theatre, complete with bar and exhibition space.

The venue launches in on 24 January 2024 with a week long celebration of the films of Powell and Pressburger. Screenings include such classics as The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death and Black Narcissus. Each will be supplemented with performances of new work from contemporary artists, inspired by the movies.

Going forward, the venue will "celebrate a range of art forms: from western orchestral music to Bengali cinema; from classics of queer theatre to local contemporary art; from academic lectures to theatrical workshops for kids."

Cinema inside a ship
Image: Theatreship

Theatreship was originally known as Fiat. Launched in 1913, it notched up thousands of nautical miles hauling dry cargo between the ports of northern Europe. Its previous owners had already converted the Fiat into a theatre space, but it has been completely overhauled for its new operation.

Later this year, the ship will become part of a miniature fleet with the arrival of Artship, "one of the last surviving 1930s diesel Coasters — a class of ship that once numbered in their thousands". The two boats, anchored at a new Arts and Heritage quay, will supposedly comprise "the largest floating arts centre in the world".

One question we have: will performers use theatrical or nautical terminology? Will they enter stage right, or from the starboard deck? Will they retire backstage or astern? Either way, we expect the mood to be buoyant.

Theatreship opens on 24 January 2024. It's in the Millwall cutting, a very short walk from South Quay DLR.

Last Updated 16 January 2024