Think of the Whitechapel Gallery in London's East End and your first thought is not likely to be theatre. But just a month after its grand reopening, between 8 May and 16 June, the gallery, in association with the National Theatre, will be hosting Tim Crouch's award-winning play England.
The play, which was always intended to be shown within an art space, was born when the Traverse theatre and the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh asked Crouch to write something for the Fringe two years ago. It has been touring the world ever since. Inspired by the visual arts, Crouch was excited by the idea of putting theatre inside a gallery. "Narratively, the play is about a transplant, cultures in other countries and the preservation of commercial art, so I like the idea of having one thing inside another," he explains.
Audiences will watch each 60-minute show while being led slowly through Isa Genzken's sculptural exhibition Open Sesame to the auditorium, with the two actors, Crouch and Hannah Ringham (a founder member of the Shunt collective) as guides. Crouch has to rewrite the play each time it moves location, to reference the work of the artist and gallery it is being performed alongside. "We felt very strongly about coming to the Whitechapel," he said. "There's such a diverse community in this area and it felt right. Some of the play is set in London, so I'm excited about it being here. It's like re-implanting the transplanted organ back in its host body."