A hop and a skip from the Grand Union Canal, nestling between Hackney, Islington and Shoreditch, the Rosemary Branch Theatre (like most of our Fringe Benefits profiles) can be found above a pub bearing the same name just without the ‘theatre’ bit.
The site where the pub stands has a long, illustrious history as an entertainment hub, dating back to Victorian times when it was a popular music hall, and is even rumoured to have played host to a certain Charlie Chaplin. Rosemary Gardens (as it was back in the day) rivaled Vauxhall as a place for balls, concerts, ballooning, pony racing, boating, clowning and much more.
The current Artistic Directors, Cecilia Darker and Cleo Sylvestre, have, since 1996 encouraged an equally eclectic mix of entertainment at their small 60-seater theatre, albeit without so much emphasis on ballooning and pony racing. What they do serve up though is a constant supply of theatrical and musical treats, as well as providing a place for visual artists to display their wares.
It’s fair to say that the Rosemary Branch Theatre has never really managed to gain a reputation as a theatrical hot bed, but that is not to detract from the fact that they provide a much-needed platform for budding theatre practitioners. Also, with their large remit, which encompasses theatre, opera, cabaret and musicals the venue is adding another finger to another pie by hosting a musical festival. In fact, it’s already started and features an array of London’s top classically trained musicians, which you can enjoy for a tenner or less.
The pub itself is a perfectly pleasant place to have a drink or some standard pub food surrounded by a hotch-potch of stuffed animals and curiosities hanging from the ceiling.
By Jonnie Fielding