A New Theatre But Where’s The Fringe?
So there’s going to be a spiffy new 900-seat theatre beside Tower Bridge from Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, who oversaw 12 years of artistic and commercial success at the National, running the show. It’ll be the flagship home for the London Theatre Company and will operate entirely on a commercial basis with no subsidies or grants.
All of which is terrific news; London has the finest theatre in the world, but too many West End theatres are still cramped and insanely expensive, which is why I mainly go to fringe, where the material is more challenging and rare revivals pop up. But fringe has radically altered in the last few years, all but disappearing from North London, where there used to be dozens of venues, and as pubs shut so they lose the rooms that host plays.
The Finborough, owner of one of the smallest stages I’ve ever been seated in front of, is quite capable of conjuring miracles on its miniscule platform, and the Southwark Playhouse has become a powerhouse of beautifully produced shows. But some fringe venues have been greedily monetised so that the Almeida, the Menier and the Donmar now rely on corporate membership packages, meaning if you’re a disinterested sponsor you’ll get a seat but if you’re a resident you won’t. Don’t mention those chimerical £10 Monday seats either; after literally hundreds of applications I’ve never been able to snag one.
So, big new flagship theatre = good. But better still is the news that Hytner & co plan to seed a raft of smaller new venues with the revenue. Now that’s a cause for celebration.