King’s Head Theatre is moving from the pub to a new home in £400m development

King’s Head Theatre is moving from the pub to a new home in £400m development

A fringe theatre that launched the careers of some of the country’s best-known actors is heading to a multi- million-pound new home twice the size of the current venue.

The King’s Head Theatre Pub in Islington, founded in 1970, played host to stars including the late Alan Rickman, Sir Ben Kingsley, French and Saunders and Richard E Grant at the beginning of their careers.

Next autumn it will swap its 110-seat auditorium in the back of the pub, on Upper Street, for a purpose-built venue in the new £400 million Islington Square development next door.

A planning application has been  submitted to create a 250-seat auditorium with a smaller 85-seat studio and a bar. The existing theatre will become a dining room for the pub. The venue has provided experience for some of the theatre world’s major players including Oliver Mears, head of opera at Covent Garden, who learned his trade there as a trainee director.

Its fans include Sir Mick Jagger, Mark Gatiss and Joanna Lumley, who has also performed at the theatre. Lumley said: “It has always punched far above its weight; with these dazzling new planned facilities it can even offer comfort, hitherto pretty much undreamed of, and reliability. Once rain fell so steadily on the audiences’ heads that they made umbrellas of their programmes. It is a bright star with a brighter future, and no place deserves it more.”

Sherlock star Gatiss said he was “delighted” with the plan. He said: “In uncertain times, it is great to see one of the stalwarts of London’s fringe going onwards and upwards … and a bit to the left.”
The theatre’s artistic director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, said it was “an incredibly exciting time” for everyone connected with the theatre, which will move a few doors up the road to a temporary home while building work goes on.

He said: “Just feet away from the current auditorium, the planned new space will celebrate our illustrious heritage, while securing our future for decades to come. We can’t wait until people see what we have in store for our brand-new home.”

The theatre, which put on more than 800 performances last year, was founded by Dan Crawford, who established its reputation for promoting new talent during his 35 years in charge.
Its new home is in the Islington Square project, just behind the pub. A former Royal Mail sorting office is being transformed into 263 apartments, with a gym and a cinema. The theatre has already raised nearly two thirds of the money for the move, but is now looking for donations to secure the extra £2 million needed to complete it.

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