The Spread Eagle Theatre, the 50-seater comedy and cabaret venue above the pub next to the Town Hall, is to close.
The upstairs room was transformed into a studio theatre five years ago, at a time when Croydon’s Warehouse Theatre was killed off by council cynicism over arts grants, Tory cuts saw the David Lean Cinema closed, and a police ban on Bashment music was seeing the town centre becoming a cultural desert, its “best” offerings being performances by the likes of Roy “Chubby” Brown at the Fairfield Halls.
For a while, the Spread Eagle bucked that trend. Successful movie screenings staged by the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign in the room gave the pub’s management team the idea of using the space for live shows.
The world-renowned Old Joint Stock Theatre – based in a Fuller’s pub in Birmingham – worked up the Fuller’s pub in Croydon as a venue, turning the upstairs function room into a studio theatre, and the curtain went up in the autumn of 2013, with the first full programme running in 2014, often taking transfers of the Birmingham company’s acclaimed productions.
The Spread Eagle Theatre staged the first Croydon Cabaret Festival and was part of the Croydon Comedy Festival, as it hosted regular stand-up nights as well as many acclaimed short-run theatrical productions.
But over the past year, the pub theatre’s shows have become few and far between.
While lately, elsewhere, Croydon Council has been doling out thousands of pounds to put shit on stage – literally – there was no public financial subsidy for the Spread Eagle.
A change in management at the pub was followed by a decision to return the theatre space to use as a function room. The pub’s website carries no mention of the theatre any longer, and it has nothing listed on its upcoming events page.
Bella Bartock, Inside Croydon’s culture vulture, was at the Spread Eagle Theatre’s opening night, and she stuggled up the stairs to many of the venue’s other shows, too. Today, she reacted to the news by saying, “It is a terrible shame that this theatrical adventure has come to an end. Perhaps the management will reconsider the decision in the new year? I do hope so.
“In all the various short-run productions staged there, I think I only saw one show that stank the place out – unlike that ridiculous butt-pluggery the council paid for earlier this year.
“With just that one exception, the cosy Spread Eagle Theatre staged some remarkable pieces of theatrical work. I, for one, will miss it – not least because of the charming young man behind the bar at the back of the room, who always ensured that my gin was just the right shade of pink.
“But it all goes to show just how much hard work and dedication goes into a small venue just to keep the show on the road. Thank you for the memories, Spread Eagle.”
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