Behind closed doors; If you want a last look at Cardiff's Sherman Cymru before it's major overhaul, then check out its new production, which takes visitors on a tour of every nook and cranny of the building. Karen Price finds out more about it.
More than 100 members of Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre are staging a production of Sophocles' Oedipus/ Antigone, which will utilise every nook and cranny of the theatre.
"This is a unique opportunity to see the Sherman building used as never before," explains director Phillip Mackenzie.
"It's been given back to the young people so they can do one final production in it. "More than 100 young people will retell the mythic tragedies of Oedipus and Antigone.
"The audience will follow the drama as it unfolds in the empty dressing rooms and abandoned corridors, across the deserted foyer, and in the darkened auditoriums."
Mackenzie felt that the productions were perfect for the final performances inside the building.
"I was thinking about what we could do using around 130 people all over the building," he says. "And I came up with Oedipus/Antigone, as Antigone is basically about your right to put something to rest in the proper way before moving on to new things.
"I think that's quite an important theme.
"We are using the whole underbelly of the building - the corridors and empty dressing rooms - which is a great way to represent the underworld."
Oedipus/Antigone is the Greek trilogy by Sophocles about Oedipus, who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother, and Antigone, Oedipus's sister and daughter.
"There will be performance installation pieces which audience members can walk through before getting to the main stage for Oedipus," says Mackenzie, who comes from Australia. "They will then walk back through the corridors to represent Oedipus being led to Antigone, and then the piece about Antigone will be staged in the old Venue 2."
The young actors spent much time working in separate groups, but recently came together for the first time during rehearsal.
"For the first time, they got the idea of the epic production they are a part of."
Mackenzie left his homeland of Australia in 1979 and worked all over Europe before moving to Wales during the early '80s to work with the then Cardiff Laboratory Theatre company.
In 1985 he formed the two-man company Man Act which toured around Europe, and when it wound up in 1996 there were around 20 people involved.
Having already performed at the venue as part of Man Act, he joined the Sherman in 2001 to work with the youth company.
So what are his best memories of his time in the old building? "My best memories are really just seeing the young people grow up and mature into adults," says the fatherof-two, who now lives in Cardiff. Among their highlights have been visiting Kosovo three years ago to perform Gospel, and staging a version of Oedipus in a medieval castle in Italy.
He's now looking forward to working with the youth company in the new-look building, which is set to open its doors in September 2011 following a pounds 5m refurbishment. The redevelopment will include new seating, and improved foyer areas, rehearsal and office space.
The administrative team has now moved to new offices in Cardiff while the refurbishment is carried out.
Productions will be staged at sitespecific locations and existing venues, with Chapter Arts Centre will be used as rehearsal space during the next 18 months.
"We have lots of productions happening," says Sherman Cymru artistic director Chris Ricketts, who's keen to point out that it's business as usual.
"We will have something in rehearsal, on tour or in production almost every month that the building is closed."
But, for now, they are focusing on the final production, which will give people a final opportunity to bid farewell to the old-look Sherman, which staged its first production in 1973.
As Mackenzie points out: "The last page of the Sherman history book is being written.
"It feels a real honour and privilege to be a part of it. I feel incredibly fortunate."
Oedipus/Antigone is at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, from February 24 to 28. Tickets are pounds 5-7 and the box office number is 029 2064 6900. For news on the Sherman redevelopment, visit www.shermancymru.co.uk
Member''s of Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre rehearsing Oedipus/ Antigone (above) which is directed by Phillip Mackenzie (right)