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theatres

spicesOn Theatres

To all intents and purposes, this is a list of the theatres we normally patronise, with the links to access what's on and ticket purchase.

Almeida - Islington's Premier Theatre, off Upper Street. The premises started as a lecture hall for the neighbourhood’s Scientific and Literary Institution. After many guises as a club for local gentlemen to read newspapers and play billiards, a citadel for the Salvation Army, a warehouse for fancy dress attire and circus equipment, the owner was shot by his brother-in-law and local residents fought to save the building from demolition. The building was finally re-opened as the Almeida Theatre in 1981 with a Grade II listing.

The seating bank of the lecture hall was where the theatre’s curved back brick wall now encloses the stage action. The upper floor, now the circle area, housed a small natural history museum, committee room and library.

https://almeida.co.uk/whats-on

Arcola - Basic and experimental theatre founded by artistic director Mehmet Ergen, in 2000, in Dalston. Initially located in a textile factory on Arcola Street, in 2011 the Arcola moved to a former paint-manufacturing workshop on Ashwin Street when the original site was earmarked for redevelopment. Since its inception the theatre has twice won the Peter Brook Empty Space Award and was awarded Time Out Live Awards in 2003 and 2006.

The theatre is committed to achieving carbon neutral status and a research project, Arcola Energy, "bringing together the creative mindset and the engineering methodology", is established on the building's top floor to develop and market hydrogen fuel cells, with the profits subsidising the theatre's community arts projects.

https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/

Bridge - a new theatre in a block south of Tower Bridge, it is still establishing its reputation. The Bridge is the first theatre run by London Theatre Company, founded in 2017. The Bridge focuses on the commissioning and production of new shows, as well as staging the occasional classic. The 900-seat adaptable auditorium is capable of responding to shows with different formats (end-stage, thrust-stage and promenade). It is the first wholly new theatre of scale to be added to London’s commercial theatre sector in 80 years. The Bridge was designed by Steve Tompkins and Roger Watts of Haworth Tompkins Architects (winner of the 2014 Stirling Prize).

https://bridgetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/ (click on menu to see productions)

Donmar Warehouse - in Seven Dials, the theatre has achieved an international reputation from its outstanding productions and casts, despite a lack of high visibility at street level. Originally a brewery vat room with hop storage and stabling underneath, an 1870s extension of the Woodyard Brewery of 1740. The brewery closed in 1905. The spacious vat room, after briefly being used as a film studio, became a banana ripening warehouse.

Donmar provided technical and rehearsal services for theatres in the West End and the many shows produced by Donald Albery.The name Donmar was the amalgam of Donald Albery’s first name and his wife’s second name, Margaret. In 1960, son Ian Albery, when manager of the Donmar Hire and Sales company, acquired a lease of part of the old brewery building adjacent to the banana warehouse. When he heard that the adjacent banana warehouse was closing he secured the remaining 18 months lease for constructing full scale scenery for rehearsals. The Rehearsal Theatre was used for over 15 years by many West End producers. In 1977 it was converted to the Donmar Warehouse Theatre by Donmar and RSC before the RSC moved to the Barbican in 1982. It was reconstructed and expanded on much improved lines as part of the commercial development of the adjoining Neal’s Yard in 1992.

The Donmar has a special theatrical quality and the audience enjoy good sightlines and proximity to the acting.

https://booking.donmarwarehouse.com/events/

RADA theatres - Malet Street, is several theatres in one building. RADA is one of the oldest drama schools in the UK, founded in 1904 by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. It has five theatres and a cinema. The Malet Street building includes the Jerwood Vanburgh Theatre, the largest performance space with a capacity of 194; the George Bernard Shaw Theatre is a black box theatre for up to 70; and the Gielgud Theatre is an intimate studio theatre for up to 50. In January 2012, RADA acquired the lease to the Drill Hall venue in Chenies Street and renamed it RADA Studios. The RADA students put in all their enthusiasm and amazing inventive skills into their productions.

https://www.rada.ac.uk/whats-on/

Shakespeare's Globe - the south bank's 'replica' of Shakespeare's theatre plus Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor candle-lit venue. Plays are both early and modern. The Globe Theatre officially opened in 1997. A ‘roofless’, open-air theatre in the shape of an icosagon, a 20 sided polygon, it can hold 870 people seated, 700 standing. In 1970 Sam Wanamaker set out to build a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s original Globe on Bankside. To recreate the 1599 amphitheatre as accurately as possible. Built from oak beams, lime-plaster walls and a water-reed thatched roof, it is the only thatched-roof building in London and required special dispensation from anti-thatch laws.

https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/

Hampstead - now in a modern purpose-built theatre in Swiss Cottage with awesome reputation, experimental theatre in the basement. Hampstead Theatre began in Moreland Hall, Holly Bush Vale, 1959. Known then as ‘The Hampstead Theatre Club’, it was founded by the British theatre director James Roose-Evans. Harold Pinter was a permanent fixture in the early years, trying and testing many of his plays in front of the loyal Hampstead audience. In 1962 the company relocated to a small studio in Swiss Cottage. It remained there for nearly 40 years and supported, developed and produced the work of new and emerging writers. In 2003, as a result of the immense generosity of the local community and the Theatre’s supporters, the striking new and purpose-built 325-seat Hampstead Theatre building was completed in Swiss Cottage close to the site of the old studio theatre. Designed by Bennetts Associates, this was the first free-standing theatre to be built in the city for 25 years.

https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/main-stage/

Jermyn Street West End's tiny basement theatre of 70 seats with great productions. Jermyn Street Theatre was founded in 1994 with no core funding from government or the Arts Council. It became a producing theatre, the smallest in London’s West End, In 2017.

https://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/now-next/

National - three theatres in one from the large Lyttleton to the small Dorfman.

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/whats-on

Old Vic - A former music hall at Waterloo which has had many guises and maintains its high reputation. Many famous actors started here. The Old Vic Theatre originally opened as the Royal Coburg Theatre in 1818 with three different styles of entertainment in one night. A major reconstruction occurred in 1871, by then called the New Victoria Palace. A social reformer, Emma Cons, bought the building in declining circumstances, renovated and reopened it in 1880 as the Royal Victoria Hall and Coffee Tavern. In 1900 the first Opera was performed at the Theatre, and in 1912 Lilian Baylis, who was Emma Cons' niece, took over the management of the Theatre and it was to become something of a passion for her for the rest of her life. Baylis introduced early cinema to the Theatre, along with regular Opera productions, and symphony concerts. In 1914 Baylis decided, against popular opinion, to put on Shakespeare at the Theatre and was very successful. The tradition of doing Shakespeare continued for many years and performers such as John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier were willing to work for low wages if they could play the great Shakespearean roles.

It was during her time at the Old Vic that the National Theatre was born. The National Theatre company took over the Old Vic in 1963 under the direction of Laurence Olivier, followed by Peter Hall in 1974, but left the Theatre for their new home on the South Bank in 1976. In 2004 the Theatre became a producing house, and under the Artistic Direction of Kevin Spacey, and Producer David Liddiment, this became a very successful venture. The Old Vic Theatre today has a seating capacity of 1,067. Visit http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/OldVicTheatre.htm for more detail. See also Sadlers Wells.

https://www.oldvictheatre.com/

Orange Tree - The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond was founded in 1971 by Sam Walters above the Orange Tree pub, now opposite the current site, with lunchtime performances of Go Tell It on Table Mountain. The theatre played mostly lunchtime performances, the audience seated on church pews and the performances are played in daylight. In 1991 the theatre moved into the purpose-built in-the-round space it occupies today, adapted from a disused primary school. With 172 seats, it’s the only purpose-built, full-time professional theatre-in-the-round in London. The Orange Tree won the UK Theatre Award for London's Most Welcoming Theatre in 2016.

https://orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on

Park - The Park Theatre is the brainchild of Artistic Director, Jez Bond, and Creative Director Emeritus, Melli Bond, who, following a six year London-wide search, discovered an office block near to Finsbury Park station. Garnering support from the theatre community at large, including luminaries such as Ian McKellen and Alan Rickman, the press and local residents, they set out to raise the necessary funds to convert the tired concrete building into a thriving new theatre. At a cost of just £2.6 million, the building, designed by David Hughes Architects, opened in May 2013 to rave reviews from the critics.

https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on

Sadlers Wells - In 1683, Richard Sadler built a music and entertainments house around a mineral spring to rival the Tunbridge and Epsom wells. In 1765 Thomas Rosoman had the theatre rebuilt to mount high-calibre opera productions. After many ups and downs including conversion into a skating rink and then a cinema, in 1915 it closed its doors.

Motivated by a profound belief that great art should belong to everybody, Lilian Baylis, who had been presenting drama and opera at the Old Vic, began fundraising in 1925 to rebuild Sadler’s Wells so that the people of north London could enjoy the same opportunities as those in the south.

Irish woman Ninette de Valois was hired in by Baylis in 1928 and the new Sadler’s Wells, designed by architect Frank Matcham, opened in 1931 with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in Twelfth Night. For four years, drama productions, opera and ballet shuttled between the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells until Baylis decided to dedicate Sadler’s Wells to opera and ballet for eight months of the year and give the Vic-Wells Ballet a permanent base. The new season opened in 1935 to great acclaim with Miss Margot Fonteyn, at 16, participating.

At the end of the war, De Valois took her fledging ballet company to Covent Garden to become the Royal Ballet, while Sadler’s Wells diversified. Alongside Rambert Dance and London Contemporary Dance, who briefly held residencies here, a great variety of touring and commercial work was also presented. A new chief executive Ian Albery led the campaign to transform Sadler’s Wells into a purpose-built dance theatre. Opening in 1998, the building with its 1,500 seat auditorium still incorporates the skeleton of Frank Matcham’s 1931 theatre, which in turn contained bricks from the Victorian playhouse. Today Sadler’s Wells promotes, commissions and produces outstanding dance, with productions from al over the world.

https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/

Union Theatre - In 1998, Sasha Regan took the initiative to convert a disused paper warehouse on Union Street near Southwark station into a functioning theatre. Set beneath railway arches, by Sasha Regan in 1998, it was one of the more distinctive theatrical spaces in London. When Network Rail, wished to redevelop the site in 2016, the Union Theatre moved into new Network Rail premises just across the road.

http://uniontheatre.biz/whats-on/

Young Vic - The Young Vic began its life as an offshoot of the Old Vic to develop plays for young audiences, an experimental workshop for authors, actors and producers.'

The company was led by Frank Dunlop, who wanted to create a new kind of theatre for a new generation - one that was unconventional, classless, open, circus-like and cheap. He was inspired by influential French actor and director Jean Vilar, who claimed that theatre should be as indispensable to life as bread and wine. The Young Vic was conceived as a 'paperback' theatre, where high-quality work would be made available to all at low cost.

The theatre was built on The Cut just down the road from the Old Vic, on a bomb-site. The building was designed by Bill Howell and was intended to last for just five years.

By 2000, the fabric of the theatre was crumbling. From 2004-2006, the Young Vic went on ‘Walkabout' while the theatre was rebuilt, returning to a redesigned theatre which continues to celebrate the Young Vic's provisional aesthetic and the perfect proportions of its auditorium.

https://www.youngvic.org/whats-on

Other theatres for consideration: Alexandra Palace Theatre, Wilton's Music Hall, Turbine Theatre, Above the Stag