Stellar Theatre brings 'one night only magic' into people's homes
- Credit: Andy Tyler Photography
Two Hampstead and Highgate theatre lovers are bringing live play readings into people's homes, performed by a rosta of renowned actors.
Peggy Vance and Karen Paul founded Stellar Theatre after meeting on the development board of Hampstead Theatre.
Clients select from a list of short plays and enjoy a bespoke reading, with the chance to mingle with playwright and performers afterwards. RSC, National Theatre and screen actors who could be ringing your doorbell include Lloyd Owen, Samantha Spiro, Emily Woof, Diane Keen Clare Holman and Nigel Lindsay.
Vance, a trained actor and ex publishing executive who is based in Highgate, was inspired by her father Dennis, who created ITV's Armchair Theatre in the mid '50s.
"The idea came from my theatrical background and my father who invented Armchair Theatre which took theatre to the small screen," she says.
"I thought 'what does that look like now?' and realised bringing the magic of theatre into people's homes, performing something really personal and immediate and fresh was today's equivalent."
Paul, who lives in Hampstead, developed a love for theatre from an early age before becoming a commercial property lawyer.
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"The dramatic arts were always important to me, I was asked to join the development board of Hampstead Theatre getting people interested in becoming patrons. Peggy and I met, shared a love of theatre and got on famously from the start."
They set up Stellar before Covid, but Paul says "the pandemic didn't stop us".
"We live streamed plays via Zoom which gave us a wider reach. Now we are yearning to be back in the room and have that live experience, but do a simultaneous live stream so more people can enjoy it."
Their playwrights are both established and emerging; including Julia Pascal, John Retallack, Rasheda Malcolm, Emily Woof, and Hampstead-based Lorien Haynes. Topics range from toxic dating to domestic violence and climate change.
"The bias is towards new work," says Vance. "We have diverse voices and a wide ranging subject matter on provocative themes which are talking points. Ideally they should be a short, engaging play which has wit, wonder and surprise, then everyone has a big forum discussion after the show."
"What Peggy and I love about theatre is the opportunity to chat to artists afterwards," adds Paul. "We have a lovely fraternity of actors chosen for their ability to engage and connect with people. A reading means it's not a vast commitment of their time and the client can have a famous actor in their home."
Their clients might book for a celebration, a birthday, or a party that's "a bit unusual".
"Our clients tend to be people who absolutely love theatre and want a next level experience. The kind who enjoy sitting around after the show hoping to chat to someone who's been in the play to understand more about what they have just witnessed," said Vance.
"Theatre needs to move or change you. We want people to come out of a Stellar experience feeling something important has happened. It's one night only magic."