Jermyn Street, Piccadilly is an affluent thoroughfare of note. You might have popped in to one of the many shirt shops (the 17th Century fashion for picadill’s, a type of shirt collar, lent its name to the area), or wandered into Sir Christopher Wren’s St. James’s Church. Have you browsed through the former Simpson's department store, now a huge Waterstone' where celebrities go to get punched, or bought cheese from Paxton & Whitfield, which has been going since 1797? Perhaps you just quietly noted that Sir Isaac Newton (a man famous for inventing the cat flap) once lived on the street.
What might have escaped your attention is that at the Piccadilly Circus end of the street, opposite the Tesco Metro on the corner, is an innocuous doorway which leads to the Jermyn Street Theatre. This miniature 70-seat studio theatre first opened its doors in 1994, and had previously been a cloakroom for staff of the upstairs restaurant.
As with many of our Fringe Benefit theatres, it was the vision of one person who saw the potential of transforming a largely redundant space into a theatre. In this case, it was a guy called Howard Jameson, and he managed to coerce 56 British companies to donate materials, expertise and services to realise his dream.
The current Artistic Director is an ex RAF serviceman called Gene David Kirk, who is continuing the theatre's commitment to new writing, forgotten classics and new musicals.
Speaking of new musicals, the latest offering, which runs until 23rd April is a musical comedy called The Kissing Dance, and the music is provided by none other than Howard Goodall, who amongst other things is probably best known for giving us the Blackadder theme tune. The lyrics are courtesy of Charles Hart, whose credits include The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love, so all in all, despite the theatre’s diminutive size, that’s a heavyweight creative team.
By Jonnie Fielding