Fringe Benefits: The King's Head Theatre

By Londonist Last edited 104 months ago
Fringe Benefits: The King's Head Theatre
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The original Victorian cash register still in use in the pub. Various elements of the theatre such as lamps and the red velvet curtains have been recycled from other famous West End theatres.
The original Victorian cash register still in use in the pub. Various elements of the theatre such as lamps and the red velvet curtains have been recycled from other famous West End theatres.
The walls of the pub are festooned with pictures of the great and the good that have performed at the King's Head. Founder, Dan Crawford is amongst them, keeping an eye on the theatre he founded 40 years ago.
The walls of the pub are festooned with pictures of the great and the good that have performed at the King's Head. Founder, Dan Crawford is amongst them, keeping an eye on the theatre he founded 40 years ago.
15910_khfacade1.jpg
15910_khfacadeco.jpg
15910_khpub2.jpg
15910_khtheatre.jpg
The original Victorian cash register still in use in the pub. Various elements of the theatre such as lamps and the red velvet curtains have been recycled from other famous West End theatres.
The original Victorian cash register still in use in the pub. Various elements of the theatre such as lamps and the red velvet curtains have been recycled from other famous West End theatres.
The walls of the pub are festooned with pictures of the great and the good that have performed at the King's Head. Founder, Dan Crawford is amongst them, keeping an eye on the theatre he founded 40 years ago.
The walls of the pub are festooned with pictures of the great and the good that have performed at the King's Head. Founder, Dan Crawford is amongst them, keeping an eye on the theatre he founded 40 years ago.

Lifting the curtain on London's small, local theatres.

The King's Head Theatre situated on Upper Street in Islington was the first pub theatre to be opened in England since the days of Shakespeare. Founded in 1970 by the late Dan Crawford, when the area was a far cry from the bar and restaurant strewn hub that it is today, it grew and thrived under Dan's guidance. It was an outlet for his passion for theatre, and natural instinct to nurture writing, directing, acting and producing talent.

Many of the young unknowns who have taken to its tiny stage have gone on to become household names, including Steven Berkoff, Kenneth Branagh, Kathy Burke, Dawn French, Hugh Grant, Ben Kingsley, Gary Oldman, Clive Owen, Tom Stoppard and Victoria Wood...to name but a few.

The room at the back of the pub, which now holds the 120 seat theatre, was previously a boxing ring, but now offers a pre theatre menu and on Press nights and special occasions, a place to relax away from what is usually a vibrant, thronging Victorian pub featuring live music and late opening times most nights of the week.

Despite its size and refusal to adhere to modern day conventions (Dan continued to deal in Shillings years after the UK went decimal), the King's Head Theatre has successfully transferred 37 productions to the West End, has had 8 national tours and 6 Broadway transfers and, unlike many pub theatres, which sprung up in its wake, the King's Head continues to have a strong relationship between pub and theatre.

Following Dan's death in 2005, the theatre remains under the watchful eye of his wife Stephanie Sinclair who carries the torch with the same ethos and unbridled passion begun by her husband 40 years ago. Continuing to mentor budding directors and technicians alike, and with its thriving lunchtime performances, the King's Head looks set to continue giving opportunities and guidance to fresh talent that will undoubtedly grace our stages and screens in the future.

Visit the King's Head theatre website to see what's coming up.

By Jonnie Fielding.

Last Updated 15 January 2010