If you saw Kevin McCloud stood outside the new-look Tara Theatre in Earlsfield gesticulating, it would make complete sense.

After a £2.7million, 18-month transformation, the old Edwardian building in Garratt Lane would not look out of place on Grand Designs.

Artistic director Jatinder Verma, who was one of the five young Wandsworth residents who founded the Tara Arts theatre group in the late 1970s and saw it move into the building in 1983, told us he hopes the refurbishment will take the theatre into the next 50 years.

He said: “The principle thing has been we have taken the Mission Hall that we inherited – from when Earlsfield Station was built in 1884 – and have transformed it into a cultural palace for the 21st century.”

Tara Theatre’s redesign has taken inspiration from the traditional and the contemporary.

Ornate antique doors imported from India are juxtaposed with modern wood panelling. The Edwardian façade has been maintained, with 7,500 of the building original bricks reclaimed from the demolition and reused in the auditorium.

The essence of theatre, Mr Verma believes, is telling a story on the earth under a tree. To reflect that, Tara has a stage floor made from red earth brought from Devon while tree motifs run throughout the building including its exterior.

Mr Verma said: “I think we have maintained the tradition of the building, which was a place of gathering, and now it is a place of a different kind of gathering, which is a gathering for stories. I think that is terribly important.

“We thought we ought to reflect the century we are in, and the borough. Part of what makes the borough that we are in is the multiplicity of cultures. What was really central was to encase that multiplicity in the fabric of the building.”

The theatre’s revamp is not just cosmetic, however: building work has expanded it both upwards and downwards.

The basement has been dug down 14 metres to incorporate toilets (accessible for wheelchair users via a lift) and a workshop-cum-greenroom.

Moving the toilets from the ground floor means more auditorium space and the capacity has been doubled from 50 to 100. The auditorium has also been made taller, to an epic 5.5 metres – something which will be made full use of when a beanstalk comes in for the theatre’s panto, Bollywood Jack.

Upstairs, the first floor offices have been partly cleared to create a studio theatre that will be used for research and smaller shows and for community groups.

Mr Verma said: “One of our first thoughts when we started thinking about how to redevelop the space was the need for another space that would allow us both to do our own research and development – both develop shows, rehearse pieces of work – but also a space which the local community can come into.”

He said all kinds of groups will be welcome, especially activities for children, and even envisages the theatre and its new patio being a workspace for people looking for somewhere with free wifi to park their laptop.

Go to tara-arts.com

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