Blueprint countdown Rehearsals are under way at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch for The Empty Chair. The countdown begins with the first show in our new Blueprint festival of ideas opening next week. “The Empty Chair is a love letter to Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and to the surprises that can be discovered in the theatre over centuries,” says actor Robert Pickavance, who has worked in many of the country’s theatres and companies, including the Young Vic, Leeds Playhouse and Northern Broadsides. One of two performers in the The Empty Chair, he shares the cast with singer and performer Melanie Pappenheim (Damon Albarn’s Dr Dee, Netflix’s The Crown). This project, Melanie says, “presents a wonderful opportunity to take our audience on an offbeat journey exploring the nooks and crannies of the theatre and our theatrical past.” Joe Lichtenstein is the director. He is returning to Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch after his hit revival last year of David Eldridge’s play Beginning. Joe came up with the initial idea for The Empty Chair and devised the play in collaboration with his cast of two. Together they will create a dramatic atmosphere of intrigue, while keeping details under wraps until audiences experience it for themselves to preserve the show’s strong element of surprise. Each performance is for a privileged audience of just two people. Each audience will be directed to a secret door into the theatre and led into the bowels of the building to arrive at a secret location not generally accessible to the public. Finally, the full drama of The Empty Chair will unfold as the audience settles in for an exciting half-hour long performance. “The Blueprint festival of new work at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch is encouraging bold ideas ,” says Joe. “The opportunity for a group of artists to take bold risks in a supportive environment is what leads to discovery. These are the ingredients for artistic alchemy.” Blueprint festival takes over every available space in the theatre, and runs September 12-24. It includes 13 mostly new works of non-traditional forms of theatre to be performed in and around the recently Grade II-listed building. From the basement to the roof and the carpark, as well as the auditorium and foyer. There will be immersive and devised pieces, staged play readings, a dramatic design-led production on a revolving set of 31 scenes in 31 minutes, Shakespeare on film and digital and musical innovation. The Empty Chair opens the festival on Monday September 12, with up to six performances a day until September 17. Book your tickets here.