Central Croydon is to get a new performing arts space – inspired by the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign and with productions brought to south London all the way from Birmingham.
For the past six months, the world-renowned Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham has been working with the Spread Eagle pub, next door to Croydon Town Hall, to help turn the upstairs function room into a studio theatre.
And this autumn, the Spread Eagle Theatre will open as a 50-seat studio space, with a series of transfers of the Birmingham company’s acclaimed productions.
Inside Croydon has charted the decline of local theatre over the past couple of years, for instance with the cultural vandalism by the local council that forced the closure of the Warehouse Theatre, and with local amateur groups being forced out of the borough by the high charges for use of performance space, such as the (council-backed) Fairfield Halls’ Ashcroft Theatre.
Now, in the space of a few weeks, two pubs in central Croydon, the Spread Eagle and, just around the corner, The Ship – which is staging three short plays next week by the Breakfast Cat Theatre Company – have taken up the artistic slack caused by the Philistines running the council, by providing rehearsal rooms and performance space.
“If this goes well, the Spread Eagle Theatre will launch as a permanent venue early in 2014, with a minimum of one week-long production each month,” said Tim Hodgson, the Old Joint Stock Theatre Company’s artistic director.
“Again, they will be strictly professional small productions, specialising in new writing.”
Hodgson says that the success of the use of the Spread Eagle by the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign – which staged its first meeting in the upstairs room of the pub more than two years ago, championed by and promoted by Inside Croydon – helped convince his company and the pub’s owners to look at using the space for other performances.
“We are really looking to get people in Croydon behind this new venture, especially given the dearth of arts venues in Croydon at the moment. The Spread Eagle has supported and hosted the Save The David Lean campaign, and we see this as a continuation of that. It was actually the success of the film showings in the function room which inspired the pub to look into opening a theatre in the first place.”
There are other synergies, too: the Old Joint Stock Theatre Company is sponsored by Fullers, the Chiswick brewery which has thousands of devotees who already visit the Spread Eagle each week.
The first three productions for October and November are all critically acclaimed small productions from the company’s stable, beginning with Tea at Five, a piece based on the life of Hollywood movie star Katharine Hepburn. At a venue just yards away from the still-dark David Lean Cinema, and across the road from where the Croydon-born Oscar-winning director saw his first film, it seems an apt choice.
Coming to Croydon
- Green Heritage Fair at Heathfield House: Sep 21-22
- Three plays in a pub: The Ship, Sep 24
- Have a cup of coffee and help fight cancer: Sep 27
- Help break the chains of human trafficking: Sep 28
- Minster’s musical celebration for Silver Sunday: Oct 6
- Rent at the Secombe Theatre: Oct 9-12
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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