Lifting the curtain on London’s Fringe theatres.
Unlike the last ‘Fringe Benefits’ profile (the King’s Head), the Arcola Theatre, founded in 2000 by Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen and Executive Producer Leyla Nazil, is a spring chicken; a veritable new kid on the block.
Despite its junior status on the London fringe theatre scene, the Arcola already has a reputation as a theatrical powerhouse that can give any venue in London a run for its money.
The Arcola found its home in an old textile factory, nestling just off the Kingsland Road in what non-locals might consider a no man’s land between Dalston and Stoke Newington. Its rapid success can be largely attributed to the artistic vision of the Turkish born Ergen and its forward-thinking management.
Aside from its rich and varied programming which embraces new writing, classic drama, music and comedy, staging work by some of the best living actors, writers and directors, the Arcola has also successfully integrated itself into the local area, running one of the most extensive multi-cultural community and youth programmes in East London.
The theatre offers free drama classes for around 150 teens every week, a local writers' group, a youth theatre and music group. They also cater for Hackneyites who are lucky enough to fall into the 50+ category, with workshops and writing sessions. Oh…and ‘Arcola Ala Turka’, a Turkish speaking theatre group encouraging understanding between Kurdish and Turkish members of the community. Can’t think whose idea that was!
These ventures are anything but a sub-plot to the two full-time theatre spaces the Arcola runs (which continually delight both the audiences who go there and the national press), the two part-time programmed spaces, the two rehearsal rooms and, of course, the cozy bar/café area (free wifi!). The Arcola is also on a mission to become the world’s first carbon-neutral theatre. They've set up the sustainability project ‘Arcola Energy’ to help them achieve this.
The new East London Line re-opens later this year with a brand new station just a stone's throw from the theatre. Despite its already impressive record, the Arcola's heyday may still lie in the future.
The Arcola Theatre, 23-27 Arcola Street, London, E8 2DJ
By Jonnie Fielding. Photos courtesy of the Arcola Theatre.