Warehouse Theatre

Warehouse Theatre

Infobox Theatre
name = Warehouse Theatre

caption = Logo of the Warehouse Theatre
address = Dingwall Road, Central Croydon, CR0 2NF
city = Croydon, London
country = UK
designation =
latitude = 51.2230
longitude = 0.538
architect =
owner = Warehouse Theatre Company Ltd
capacity = 100
type =
opened = 1977
yearsactive = 31
rebuilt = 2010
closed =
othernames =
production =
currentuse = Theatre performances
website = www.warehousetheatre.co.uk

The Warehouse Theatre is a professional producing theatre with one hundred seats in the centre of the London Borough of Croydon, based in an oak-beamed former cement Victorian warehouse. It is acclaimed for its commitment to new writing, including its annual International Playwriting Festival, in partnership with the Extra Candoni Festival of Udine in Italy and Theatro Ena in Cyprus. Youth theatre is also important, with the resident Croydon Young Peoples' Theatre (CRYPT) and including an annual collaboration with the Croydon-based Brit School. Within the building there is also a popular CaféBar.

The early years

The Warehouse Theatre was founded by Sam Kelly, Richard Ireson and Adrian Shergold at the height of the lunchtime theatre boom with the aim of presenting a varied season of plays with an emphasis on new work to the highest possible standards. The first production - "Hell's Angels on Typewriters" by Angela Wye - opened in May 1977, and the then 50 seat auditorium became an instant favourite with local audiences for lunchtime performances whilst sharing the building with a Caribbean night club.

In 1978, the Arts Council recognised the work of the theatre by awarding a major grant and in 1979 the nightclub closed, evening performances were introduced and the seating capacity was increased to 100. Highly respected touring companies began to visit the theatre between in-house productions. Extremely popular cabaret evenings were introduced, with performers including Lenny Henry, French & Saunders, Rik Mayall, Ben Elton, and Julian Clary. Gradually more plays were premiered, with many being specially commissioned by successful writers, such as Sue Townsend, who wrote "Groping for Words" and "Womberang" for the theatre.

After the withdrawal of an Arts Council grant in 1984, potential closure was averted when the London Borough of Croydon and the GLC agreed to replace the grant. Following a brief closure for major refurbishment, including the building of the bar, the theatre re-opened in 1985 under the directorship of Ted Craig with the premiere of David Allen's "Cheapside".

Now concentrating exclusively on new playwriting, initiatives such as the South London Playwriting Festival were launched, giving an invaluable platform to works by both new and established writers. Kevin Hood's compelling new play "Beached" won the first festival in 1986 and he later became Resident Playwright, writing both "The Astronomer's Garden" and "Sugar Hill Blues" for the theatre.

Building on success

The South London Playwriting Festival quickly became the highly acclaimed International Playwriting Festival, reflecting the number of entries from all over the globe. Finalists have included playwrights from the USA, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and Bulgaria, with the 1994 winner, Dino Mahoney, being half Irish, half Greek, living in Hong Kong. Dino's selected play "Yo Yo" had its premiere here in April 1995. In 1996, the Warehouse Theatre inaugurated a partnership with the leading Italian playwriting festival, the Premio Candoni Arta Terme and in 1999 a partnership was also formed with Theatro Ena in Cyprus providing selected writers with a window for further productions in Europe. The new writers discovered by the festival have since gone from strength to strength and further productions, radio and screen contracts, and success with other work has followed, including James Martin Charlton, Sheila Dewey, Richard Vincent, Mark Norfolk, Maggie Neville and Roumen Shomov.

The building

The Warehouse Theatre is a converted Victorian warehouse, built in 1882 for a sand, cement and lime merchant. In spite of refurbishments, it still has several original features. There are picture tiles from the 1880s, mostly on the cellar under the main staircase, and a "crab" winch and wall crane of unusual design in full working order on the side of the building. Early drawings show that the bar, opened in 1985, is actually sited in the old stable block, with the eating area above in the appropriately named "Hayloft" bar.

But the Victorian charm of the building does have its less engaging side. The removal of a false ceiling in 1981 uncovered the planked roof and vast beams and tresses of the original holes in the original roof to let in the original rain over audience and cast alike.

Space is another problem. The office looks like a cupboard crossed with a corridor and is actually another entrance to the auditorium. In fact, until 1985 it was the entrance and many bemused latecomers are still escorted up the backstairs and past the kitchen to avoid walking through the scenery. With so little room to manoeuvre, one (unnamed) actress was once forced to crawl along a wooden beam in the roof in order to reach her entrance after she had left by the wrong door the scene before!

But the problems have helped to encourage the ingenuity and imagination in staging and design for which the Warehouse Theatre is rightly acclaimed - and cheerfulness in adversity has seen staff and audiences alike through many a minor crisis.

A secure future in Ruskin Square

For some years a new theatre has been planned in partnership with Stanhope / Schroders as part of their Ruskin Square development. Designed by Foster + Partners around a park setting with the Warehouse Theatre occupying a £5 million, 200 seat custom designed building. Although a complete contrast to the existing victorian warehouse, the new building has been designed to be as intimate as possible.

Arena Planning Permission and CPO Rejected

Croydon Arena was a proposed arena part of the Croydon Gateway re-generation scheme in the south London district of Croydon. The site is next to East Croydon station and has been in the ownership of the rival development Ruskin Square. Development website: [http://www.RuskinSquare.com Ruskin Square]

The Arena scheme was backed by Croydon Council with developer partner Arrowcroft. The matter was the subject of a public inquiry that took place from September to November 2007.

The full decision rejecting the Planning Application and the Compulsory Purchase Order was issued on the 31 July 2008 and the 6 August 2008. The full documentation can be found [http://www.persona.uk.com/croydongateway/index.htm at the public inquiry website]

The Immediate Future

The Warehouse Theatre Company will remain in the present building for the next two years and will move to its new premises with minimal disruption.

Fundraising Challenge

The Warehouse Theatre will be launching its largest fundraising appeal in its 30 year history over the Autumn of 2008 to help it launch itself into the new building. Fundraising will be required for finishing touches to the new building, technical equipment, launch programme and a host of other vital expenditure to ensure the Warehouse Theatre is launched into its new future on a firm footing.

External links

* [http://www.warehousetheatre.co.uk/ Warehouse Theatre website]
* [http://www.croydongateway.com Croydon Gateway: The now defunct alternative proposals of an Arena development by Arrowcroft]
* [http://www.ruskinsquare.com Ruskin Square: Web site for Stanhope led development]

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