Almeida Theatre


Almeida Theatre

Infobox Theatre
name = Almeida Theatre



caption = The Almeida Theatre on 14 April 2007
address = Almeida Street
city = Islington, London
country =
designation = Grade II listed
latitude = 51.5395
longitude = -0.1032
architect = Roumieu and Gough
owner = Almeida Theatre trust
capacity = 325 seat on two levels
type = Studio theatre
opened = 1833 "as reading rooms"
yearsactive =
rebuilt = 1982 "as theatre" 2000 Burrell Foley Fischer
closed =
othernames = 1833 Islington Literary and Scientific Society 1875 Wellington Club
production = Short seasons
currentuse =
website = www.almeida.co.uk

The Almeida Theatre, opened in 1980, is a 325 seat studio theatre with an international reputation which takes its name from the street in which it is located, off Upper Street, in the London Borough of Islington. The theatre produces a diverse range of drama and holds an annual summer festival of contemporary opera, music and theatre. Successful plays are often transferred to West End theatres.

Early history

The theatre was built in 1837 for the newly formed Islington Literary and Scientific Society and included a library, reading room, museum, laboratory, and a lecture theatre seating 500.cite web
last = Baker
first = T F T
authorlink =
coauthors = "et al"
title = Islington Social and cultural activities
work = British History Online
publisher = University of London
date = 1985
url = http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=471
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-07-01
] The architects were the fashionable partnership of Robert Lewis Roumieu and Alexander Dick Gough. The library was sold off in 1872 and the building disposed of in 1874 to the Wellington Club—Almeida Street was then called Wellington Street—which occupied it until 1886. In 1885 the hall was used for concerts, balls, and public meetings. The Salvation Army bought the building in 1890, renaming it the Wellington Castle Barracks (Wellington Castle Citadel from 1902). To suit the building's new purpose, the front-facing lecture hall's tiered benches were replaced so that the congregation was seated in the conventional position, facing away from the front, and a balcony added. The Salvationists remained there until 1955. For a few years from 1956 the building was a factory and showroom for "Beck's British Carnival Novelties", then remained empty until in 1972 a campaign began to turn it into a theatre.cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Warehouse of Beck's British Carnival Novelties Limited, Almeida Street
work = Images of England
publisher = English Heritage
date = 1994-09-30
url = http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/search/details.aspx?pid=1&id=368492
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-07-01
]

The building was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1972. The current modified building retains the listing.

Foundation of the theatre

The campaign to open the building as a theatre was led by the Lebanese-born internationally renowned opera and theatre director Pierre Audi, after he had acquired the derelict building in 1972. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = History of the Almeida Theatre
work =
publisher = Almeida Theatre
date =
url = http://www.almeida.co.uk/aboutus/historyofthealmeidatheatre.aspx
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-07-01
] A public appeal was launched and in 1980, with the building renovated, the theatre opened with a festival of avant-garde theatre and music, held both there and at other Islington venues, with Audi as the Artistic Director.

Under Audi the theatre's reputation grew and its annual summer International Festival of Contemporary Music (now known as Almeida Opera) became highly regarded. In the summer of 1985 Astor Piazzolla, the renowned Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player, made a week long appearance with his Quinteto Tango Nuevo.

Throughout the 1980s the Almeida Theatre was a London 'receiving house' for Fringe, avant-garde and provincial theatre productions. Touring companies from the UK and abroad were regularly hosted, including Shared Experience, Joint Stock, Theatre Complicite, Cheek by Jowl and the Leicester Haymarket.

Peter Brook's Bouffes du Nord company played there in 1982, and Ronald Harwood's documentary drama, "The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest" premiered at the Almeida in October 1985, an early example of a transcript of a trial of the political murderers of Father Jerzy Popieluszko.

The Royal Shakespeare Company brought its smaller-scale autumn London seasons to the Almeida in both 1988 and 1989.

The Almeida in the 1990s

It first became a producing theatre in 1990 when the Scot Ian McDiarmid and the South African Jonathan Kent took over as joint artistic directors with the intention of making the Almeida a centre of theatrical excellence.

Work by major playwrights, old and new, British and foreign was staged and the theatre acquired an artistic reputation comparable to the leading theatres in central London and, as noted by playwright David Hare, "it reinvented the European repertoire for London audiences and made British theatre more cosmopolitan and outward going". [cite news
last = Kellaway
first = Kate
coauthors =
title = Almeida: end of Act One
work = The Observer
pages =
language =
publisher =
date = 2002-01-27
url = http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/arts/story/0,,640718,00.html
accessdate =2007-09-04
] Organised as a non-profit producing theatre its productions regularly played to packed houses and frequently transferred to the West End (14 between 1990 and 2002) and to Broadway. [cite news
last = Gibbons
first = Fiachra
coauthors =
title = Celebrated double act quits Almeida theatre
work = The Guardian
pages =
language =
publisher =
date = 2001-09-05
url = http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,546925,00.html
accessdate = 2007-09-05
]

In 1993 the theatre won the Laurence Olivier Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Theatre".

One of the keys to the success and reputation of the Almeida during the 1990s were the stagings of various plays by Harold Pinter. These included revivals of "Betrayal" in 1991 and "No Man's Land" in 1992 and premières of "Play Time" in 1991 and "Moonlight" in 1993.

During their time at the theatre, McDiarmid and Kent were described by The Guardian as " [making] Islington a centre of enlightened internationalism" [cite news
last = Billington
first = Michael
coauthors =
title = The Players
work = The Guardian
pages =
language =
publisher =
date = 2002-07-06
url = http://arts.guardian.co.uk/britishtheatre/story/0,,748731,00.html
accessdate =
] and, as they were about to leave their positions in 2002, Michael Billington, in same newspaper, summed up their achievements as threefold:

"Three things have made the Almeida the most exciting theatre in Britain. First, an eclectically international programme: everything from Molière and Marivaux to Brecht and Neil LaBute. Second, top-level casting that has given us Ralph Fiennes in "Hamlet" and "Ivanov", Kevin Spacey in "The Iceman Cometh" and Juliette Binoche in "Naked". Third, a territorial expansion that has seen the Almeida colonise the Hackney Empire, the old Gainsborough film studios and even a converted bus depot in King's Cross". [cite news
last = Billington
first = Michael
coauthors =
title = It's like being in love
work = The Guardian
pages =
language =
publisher =
date = 2002-01-12
url = http://arts.guardian.co.uk/critic/feature/0,,671768,00.html
accessdate = 2007-09-04
]

In Audi's tradition, "Almeida Opera" continues as an annual season of modern opera, usually held in July.

Refurbishment, 2001-2002

In November 1999, the Almeida was awarded £1.5 million by the Arts Council of England to undertake essential repairs to the theatre. The work began early in 2001 when the theatre was closed, and the company moved temporarily to a converted bus station at King's Cross. National Lottery backing of £5.8 million allowed for a complete restoration.

The restoration included rebuilding and extending the foyer, installing more comfortable seating and access, plus better backstage facilities with the stage area re-built for flexibility and strength, the roof improved and insulated, the lighting grid strengthened, complete re-wiring, and technical equipment updated. [cite news
last = Glancey
first = Jonathan
coauthors =
title = Little gem
work = The Guardian
pages =
language =
publisher =
date = 2003-05-05
url = http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,4661613-110432,00.html
accessdate =2007-09-04
]

Michael Attenborough took over as artistic director in 2002 and, following the completion of its restoration, the theatre was re-opened in May 2003 with a production of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea, directed by Trevor Nunn.

Artistic directors

* Pierre Audi, (1979–1989) [cite book|last=Cummings|first=David M|title=International Who's who in Music and Musicians' Directory|publisher=Routledge|location=London|date=2000-06-13|pages=p 26|isbn=0948875534]
* Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid, (1990–2002)
* Michael Attenborough, (2002–)

Notable productions

* "Scenes from an Execution" by Howard Barker directed by Ian McDiarmid with Glenda Jackson and Jonathan Hyde (January 1990)
* "When We Dead Awaken" by Henrik Ibsen directed by Jonathan Kent (February 1990)
* "Betrayal" by Harold Pinter directed by David Leveaux with Martin Shaw and Cheryl Campbell (1991)
* "No Man's Land" by Harold Pinter, directed by David Leveaux, with Harold Pinter, Paul Eddington and Douglas Hodge (1992), transferred to Comedy Theatre in 1993.
* "The Showman" (Der Theatermacher) by Thomas Bernhard directed by Jonathan Kent with Alan Bates (1993)
* "The Deep Blue Sea" by Terence Rattigan directed by Karel Reisz with Penelope Wilton (1993) transferred to Apollo Theatre
* "Moonlight" by Harold Pinter directed by David Leveaux with Ian Holm, Anna Massey and Douglas Hodge (1993)
* "Medea" by Euripides directed by Jonathan Kent with Diana Rigg (1992) transferred to the West End and Broadway (1994)
* "Playboy of the Western World" by J.M.Synge, directed by Lynne Parker with Aidan Gillen (1994)
*"Hamlet", Almeida Theatre Company at the Hackney Empire, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes as Hamlet and Francesca Annis as Gertrude (February 1995) transferred to the Belasco Theatre on Broadway
* "The Silver Tassie" by Sean O'Casey, directed by Lynne Parker (1995).
* "Tartuffe" by Molière directed by Jonathan Kent with Ian McDiarmid and Tom Hollander (1996)
* "Ivanov" by Anton Chekhov translated by David Hare directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes and Harriet Walter (1997)
* "Naked" by Luigi Pirandello, directed by Jonathan Kent with Juliette Binoche (1998), transferred to the Playhouse Theatre
* "The Storm" by Alexander Ostrovsky directed by Hettie Macdonald with Tom Mannion, Susan Lynch and Maggie Steed (1998)
* "The Iceman Cometh" by Eugene O'Neill directed by Howard Davies with Kevin Spacey (1998, transferred to the Old Vic Theatre and to Broadway)
* "Phedre" by Jean Racine, directed by Jonathan Kent, with Diana Rigg and Barbara Jefford (1998)
* "Britannicus" by Jean Racine, directed by Jonathan Kent, with Diana Rigg and Barbara Jefford (1998)
* "Vassa" by Maxim Gorky, directed by Howard Davies with Sheila Hancock (1999)
*"Richard II", Almeida Theatre Company at the Gainsborough Studios, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes (April-July 2000)
*"Coriolanus", Almeida Theatre Company at the Gainsborough Studios, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes (June-July 2000)
* "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare directed by Jonathan Kent (final production) with Ian McDiarmid and Aidan Gillen (14 December 2000-17 February 2001) [http://www.newstatesman.com/200012180035]
* "The Lady from the Sea" by Henrik Ibsen in a version by Pam Gems, directed by Trevor Nunn, with Natasha Richardson and Benedict Cumberbatch (2003) [http://www.whatsonstage.com/index.php?pg=207&story=E8821053078790] .
* "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?" by Edward Albee directed by Anthony Page with Jonathan Pryce (2004) [http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/reviews/thegoat-rev.htm]
* "Hedda Gabler" by Henrik Ibsen directed by Richard Eyre with Eve Best (2005) [http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/6983]
* "Awake and Sing!" by Clifford Odets directed by Michael Attenborough with Stockard Channing (September 2007) [http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/18166/awake-and-sing]
* "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" by Steven Adly Guirgis directed by Rupert Goold (2008) [http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/reviews/judas-rev.htm]
* "Rosmersholm" by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Anthony Page (2008)

References

External links

* [http://www.almeida.co.uk Official Almeida Theatre website]
* [http://www.musicomh.com/theatre/index.htm musicOMH.com - reviews of recent Almeida productions]


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