The Warren May Bank holiday weekend.



It has been a tough 12 months, but good times are on their way – starting with the return of Brighton’s favourite festival hangout: The Warren. The multi-venue site at Victoria Gardens – now reconfigured to include two, purpose-built, Covid-safe outdoor theatres and four immersive bars – opens its gates on May 27 as part of this year’s eagerly-anticipated Brighton Fringe.

More than 70 shows are currently on offer at The Warren 2021, with more to come, spanning comedy, cabaret, theatre, and storytelling.

Highlights include alternative comedy stalwart Arthur Smith; the return of Ethiopia’s dazzling Circus Abyssinia, the live adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s beloved children’s book, The Snail and The Whale, plus after-hours comedy club The Late Show, which will be playing host to comic powerhouses such as Reginald D. Hunter, Zoe Lyons, and Paul Sinha.

It will mark a triumphant return for live entertainment after a year in which numerous venues, including The Warren, were forced to pull their programmes as the government imposed a nationwide lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst The Warren was unable to go ahead, production company Otherplace quickly responded to the challenges of the crisis and by July had opened The Warren Outdoors, a new, socially distanced venue on Brighton beach. Offering a platform for performers who had seen their tours and festivals canceled, acts including Jimmy Carr, Sara Pascoe, and Russell Kane brought much-needed laughs to an anxious public. Otherplace was lauded for its boldness with a ‘Legends of Lockdown’ award from comedy industry website Chortle.

The same sense of innovation drives this year’s edition of The Warren at Victoria Gardens. With audience and performer safety at the top of the agenda, Otherplace has mothballed its existing indoor venues and instead built two new spaces that offer the thrill of live entertainment within a Covid-secure environment. The McElderry is an open-air amphitheater built out of shipping containers and named in memory of Adam McElderry. Adam, a friend of The Warren, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and worked backstage in theatre, before he passed away in 2015. The smaller venue, The Oil Shed, is constructed from chequered, repurposed oil drums allowing free-flowing ventilation around the theatre. Audiences in both theatres seated with their own group at a safe distance from others in the auditorium.

The Warren will also contain four immersive bars: Thatcher’s Orchard, The Offshore Cove, The Club Bar and Festival Bar, serving socially distanced table-service drinks – open to both ticket holders and the public. Ticket holders will be offered pre and post-show table reservations whilst those without tickets will be welcome to visit on a walk-up basis.

Otherplace’s Artistic Director Nicola Haydn says:

“It would have been a lot easier just to hold The Warren back for another year. The government’s proposed ‘roadmap to recovery’ meant we were biting our nails about whether we would actually be able to go ahead and once we knew we could, we’ve all been working like crazy to get everything together in a short timeframe.

“These challenges have helped us to grow as a company and to think differently. Live performance might look very different for some time to come but it’s encouraging to know it can be done, the show can go on – you just have to be able to adapt. I can’t wait to see Warren audiences taking their seats again on May 27. I’ll be celebrating with a large drink!”

The Warren at Victoria Gardens runs until July 11, when both theatres will move down to the seafront for The Warren on The Beach, located on Madeira Drive just East of Brighton Palace Pier. An additional programme of comedy, theatre, and family shows will then be on offer until 30 August.