Camden Council's decision to in effect close down Umoja at the Shaftesbury Theatre - on the grounds of excessive noise disturbance to local residents - has led to the cancellation of today's matinee and indeed the rest of the run. In a strong reaction to the Council's approach to the issue, Richard Pulford, Chief Executive of SOLT has said:
"It is astonishing that, while Mayor Livingstone's initiative (`The Greatest Show On Earth') is still running its highly successful course, an individual London Borough should take action which forces the closure of a major theatre and the loss of an increasingly popular show. Camden Council has chosen to pursue its responsibilities in respect of noise abatement in a manner which is both bureaucratically rigid and wholly insensitive to the realities of modern-day theatre production and presentation. Neither the Leader nor the Chief Executive of Camden have shown any willingness to treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves, leaving it to be dealt with by comparatively junior officers on a purely technical basis which ignores the broader economic and cultural issues involved. This is simply unacceptable. The Society will give the owners of the Shaftesbury Theatre its full support in their efforts to have this shocking decision overturned. The tragedy is that, whatever the outcome, it will be too late to save Umoja."
Residents in flats next door to the Shaftesbury Theatre had complained to the local council (Camden) about the noise levels generated by Umoja. They weren't very happy about the noise made by Rent a year or two back, but they are apparently being driven to distraction by Umoja and, in particular, the drums.
Umoja's drums are a leading feature - along with the astonishingly powerful tribal dancing - of the evening and its true they were designed, originally, to carry sound over long distances in the vastness of Africa.
by Paul Webb Theatrenow