So, back south of the river again, but only just, as the Southwark Playhouse is literally to be found lurking within the bowels of London Bridge Station, beneath the looming presence of the Shard.
Tucked away down Shipwright Yard on the corner of Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street, the Southwark Playhouse was founded back in 1993 by Juliet Alderdice, Tom Wilson and Mehmet Ergen, a man who’s name is now synonymous with the Arcola Theatre in Dalston.
They leased a disused workshop in what was then a pretty dingy and neglected part of town and turned it in to a flexible theatre space that has become a mainstay of the London Fringe theatre scene. Last year alone saw 30,000 people visit to see performances in either the Main House or the atmospheric Vaults, which can also be hired for private functions or film and photo shoots.
They’ve had an impressive array of Artistic Directors over the years including Thea Sharrock (who was only 24 at the time, and more recently directed Harry Potter, sorry Daniel Radcliffe in Equus), Gareth Machin (now Studio Associate at the National Theatre) and Erica Whyman (now Artistic Director of the Northern Stage Company).
Southark Playhouse have also done a huge amount to try and contribute to the local area, and through their education programme, work with teachers, Southwark Borough Council, local businesses and government agencies to improve educational achievement amongst youngsters. Regular productions and events from their Young Company also provide training opportunities for young people aged 16-25.
The current production in the Main House is called The Belle’s Stratagem, a play by Hannah Cowley, which apparently hasn’t been performed for over a century. From the reviews it’s been garnering, we don’t reckon it’ll have to wait that long again.
We should also mention that due to the re-development of London Bridge station, Southwark Playhouse are getting chucked out of their current premises in December 2012. Unfortunately, Network Rail currently has no plans to incorporate the theatre into the new station that is due to open in 2018. If you feel inclined to write to the ‘powers that be’ and suggest otherwise, then the theatre have all the details on their website.
By Jonnie Fielding
Southwark Playhouse is on Shipwright Yard, London, Se1 2TF. Box Office - 020 7407 0234
Browse our archive for more fringe theatres featured in Fringe Benefits.