Fringe Benefits: The Old Red Lion Theatre

By M@ Last edited 166 months ago
Fringe Benefits: The Old Red Lion Theatre

The Old Red Lion Theatre on St. John Street in Angel is just down the road from The King’s Head theatre and round the corner from Sadler’s wells.

Once again, the theatre is housed upstairs in a pub of the same name and, believe it or not, when the pub was originally built, the area was a rural idyll. Maybe not so surprising when you learn it was first built in 1415.

Its latest incarnation, though, is from the turn of the last century. The Old Red Lion gained the nickname, ‘the in and out’, thanks to doors at the front and the back of the pub, which supposedly suited cab fare dodgers, who could enter the pub and disappear out on to another street without paying for their taxi.

A small studio theatre was built upstairs in 1979 and carved out a reputation for itself over the following years. After The Kings Cross disaster in 1987, the theatre was threatened with closure due to a review of fire regulations, but survived and for the next 15 years, thrived under the guidance of Artistic Director Ken McClymont.

The current Artistic and Management team of Damien and Helen Devine continues to see the theatre go from strength to strength. Their efforts were rewarded in 2006 when they were handed the Dan Crawford Pub Theatre Award.

The cosy, 60 seat theatre primarily encourages new writing and companies intent on providing the best and most exciting fringe theatre in London.

The current production is not new writing, but a play called This Story of Yours by John Hopkins, initially presented at the Royal Court in 1968. If you like your theatre up close and personal, dealing with subjects that might make you feel a bit uncomfortable then this may be for you. It’s well directed and designed with a strong performance from Mark Rose, who plays a policeman accused of killing a suspected paedophile in his custody. But be quick, it closes tomorrow.

By Jonnie Fielding

Last Updated 04 June 2010