Many of the theatres we’ve mentioned in this series have had former lives of one sort or another. Mainly as rooms above or behind pubs or in railway arches, or in one case a boxing ring.
This is the first one to have previously been a mortuary.
The New End Theatre is situated up in Hampstead, just round the corner from the tube station and surrounded by a plethora of cosy pubs and rather nice houses. The building dates back to 1890, when the now defunct New End Hospital was right opposite and a tunnel connected the two buildings together, so bodies could be carried discreetly underground.
By 1974 the building was empty, and a lady called Buddy Dalton saw its potential and turned the old morgue in to an 80-seat theatre; quickly establishing a reputation for producing new writing. The early 1980s saw the likes of Judi Dench and Steven Berkoff perform at the New End, as well as a bunch of Cambridge students who are now familiar names to pretty much everyone across the globe (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Richard Curtis and Emma Thompson).
The theatre has had numerous owners and Artistic Directors over the years, including a brief stint from Neil McPherson before he took over the reins at the Finborough.
Since 1997 Brian Daniels has been in charge, concentrating his efforts on new writing, the occasional classic revival and a sprinkling of musicals.
The current production, Judenfrei, which finishes 30 January, is a love story set in 1930’s Germany. On 6 February (for one night only) Derek Jacobi will be in conversation with the Artistic Director, Brian Danels. We’re not sure about what, but imagine it’s probably Derek Jacobi talking about what it’s like being Derek Jacobi.
By Jonnie Fielding. Photo courtesy of Amandine Greiner.
New End Theatre
27 New End, Hampstead, NW3 1JD
Box Office – 0870 033 2733
London's other fringe theatres.