I love pub theatres. There’s something so unexpected about them, the fact that you could be sitting there watching an exciting piece of new theatre whilst on the other side the wall a group of friends are cheering on their favourite team, pints in hand. The unexpected and unknown is certainly what drives The Hope Theatre, as the theatre supports only new writing and production, curating new talent from drama school and beyond.

“Having a theatre like this is about setting up a series of conveyer belts,” says Adam Spreadbury-Maher, artistic director both at Hope and sister theatre King’s Head. “The Stella Wilkie Award, which I run, is one, our literary department is another, transfers from theatres also, and everything is an experiment.”

Nothing about the Hope is set in stone, as Adam explains not even the seating will be fixed: “Designers and directors can really play with the space. I see my role here is to provoke writers, to say they have to adapt themselves to this tiny room and really think creatively about lighting and staging.”

…a truly multi-talented production…

Hope Theatre Sandpits AvenueThe theatre opens on 5th November with a double bill of Edinburgh Festival award winners, ‘Sandpits Avenue’ and ‘League of St George’. Both won the Stella Wilkie award, run by Adam, which gave them the financial means to go up to Edinburgh where they won the Herald Angel Award and National Student Drama Festival Award respectively.

Yasmin Zadeh produces and stars in ‘Sandpits Avenue’, a truly multi-talented production: “Both plays have different skills but the cast of both come off as really talented because they’re triple threats – it’s spoken word, acting and playing music.”

…fighting the culture that emerged in the 1960s of actors working for free…

“Adam first saw the plays in February so nine months down the line he and his team have offered marketing and directorial advice because they really care about the evolution of the shows, both of which have grown so much in the past few months.”

One of the key aspects of the theatre is that it insists on paying all actors the national minimum wage – as a minimum – for their work, fighting the culture that emerged in the 1960s of actors working for free and everyone else getting paid. Despite it being another experimental aspect of the theatre, Adam’s insistent on giving it a go. “If the only thing I do in my career is making that cultural shift I’ll be very happy.”

…the opening double bill looks set to be an energetic and entertaining night of theatre…

Yasmin agrees that paying your actors “makes you more ambitious, putting faith in the cast you have and making the multi-role, rather than having this huge cast of 30 that you can’t pay and don’t have that confidence and security of earning money.”

Whether or not this experimental theatre takes off, the opening double bill looks set to be an energetic and entertaining night of theatre. Yasmin enthuses that both writers ensured their productions “aren’t lacklustre at all, we definitely have a point to prove and they’ve really gone out on a limb and made some quite bold statements in their works”. Just a glance at the synopses confirms this: ‘Sandpits Avenue’ tackles a stressful return from Afghanistan, whilst ‘League of St George’ focuses on a 1970s punk skinhead, who juggles gang participation with his homosexuality.

…really great value…

Yasmin argues: “It sounds quite cliché but there really is something for everyone in both of these shows.” Adam agrees and says the theatre just wants to “attract anyone who appreciates new exciting writing” in a space that is small, intelligently used and hugely experimental. Risky perhaps, but it’s also exciting, brave and, at £12 for two productions, really great value.

The Hope Theatre is in The Hope and Anchor Pub, 207 Upper Street and opens on 5th November with ‘League of St George’ and ‘Sandpits Avenue’, £12 (£10 concessions). To find out more and buy tickets, check out their website.

2 Responses

  1. aline waites

    I just want to protest slightly about non payment in pubs. aba daba and Pindar productions ran fringe theatre from 1969 until 1995 and the actors were always paid something just the same as the wardrobe mistress, the box office staff and the stage management. Not a lot I grant you – but they all knew what they were going to get. This was mainly because we never had to pay the enormous rental fees for the venues we played in. The venues were happy to take the money for drinks and food.
    This is how the Hope Theatre will be run and I am so happy about it.
    Open Book productions are getting more and more popular also. It is important for everyone’s peace of mind that they know how much everything costs.

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