The Almeida Theatre, opened in 1980, is a 325-seat studio theatre with an international reputation, which takes its name from the street on which it is located, off Upper Street, in the London Borough of Islington. The theatre produces a diverse range of drama. Successful plays are often transferred to West End theatres.
1833: Islington Literary and Scientific Society
1875: Wellington Club
Almeida Theatre in June 2011
|Public transit||Essex Road|
|Owner||Almeida Theatre trust|
|Designation||Grade II listed|
|Capacity||325, over two levels|
|Opened||1833 (as reading rooms)|
|Rebuilt||1982 (as theatre)|
|Architect||Roumieu and Gough|
The theatre was built in 1837 for the newly formed Islington Literary and Scientific Society and included a library, reading room, museum, laboratory, and a lecture theatre seating 500. The architects were the fashionable partnership of Robert Lewis Roumieu and Alexander Dick Gough. The library was sold off in 1872 and the building disposed of in 1874 to the Wellington Club (Almeida Street then being called Wellington Street) which occupied it until 1886. In 1885 the hall was used for concerts, balls, and public meetings. The Salvation Army bought the building in 1890, renaming it the Wellington Castle Barracks (Wellington Castle Citadel from 1902). To suit the building's new purpose, the front-facing lecture hall's tiered benches were replaced so that the congregation was seated in the conventional position, facing away from the front, and a balcony added. The Salvationists remained there until 1955. For a few years from 1956 the building was a factory and showroom for Beck's British Carnival Novelties, then remained empty until in 1972 a campaign began to turn it into a theatre.
The campaign to open the building as a theatre was led by the Lebanese-born internationally renowned opera and theatre director Pierre Audi, after he had acquired the derelict building in 1972. A public appeal was launched and in 1980, with the building renovated, the theatre opened with a festival of avant-garde theatre and music, held both there and at other Islington venues, with Audi as the Artistic Director.
Under Audi the theatre's reputation grew and its annual summer International Festival of Contemporary Music and Performance became highly regarded. In the summer of 1985 Ástor Piazzolla, the renowned Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player, made a week-long appearance with his Quinteto Nuevo Tango. Peter Greenaway's 1983 series of films for Channel 4 Four American Composers featured Almeida presentations of works by Robert Ashley, John Cage, and Philip Glass and a Dance Umbrella presentation of Turtle Dreams by Meredith Monk.
The Almeida housed a producing company which commissioned and staged several theatre works and operas and was a London "receiving house" for Fringe, avant-garde and regional theatre productions. Touring companies from the UK were regularly hosted, including Shared Experience, Joint Stock, Theatre Complicite, Cheek by Jowl and the Leicester Haymarket, alongside international guest companies from the Philippines, Tibet, Israel, Ireland and Czechoslovakia. The Festival included contemporary music and performance presentations from continental Europe, Russia, North America, Japan, Argentina, and Morocco. Among the dozens of stage directors, composers, musicians and ensembles featured were Yuri Lyubimov, Robert Wilson, Robert Lepage, Phelim McDermott, Julia Bardsley, Deborah Warner, Simon McBurney, Annabel Arden, Yvar Mikhashoff, Michael Finnissy, Wolfgang Rihm, Claude Vivier, Gerald Barry, Steve Reich, Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Virgil Thomson, Arvo Pärt, Somei Satoh, Akio Suzuki, Takehisa Kosugi, Toru Takemitsu, Jo Kondo, Sylvano Bussotti, Giacinto Scelsi, Alfred Schnittke, Luis de Pablo, Capricorn, Spectrum, Music Projects/London, Singcircle, the Arditti Quartet, and the London Sinfonietta.
Peter Brook's Bouffes du Nord company played there in 1982, and Ronald Harwood's documentary drama, The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest premiered at the Almeida in October 1985, an early example of a transcript of a trial of the political murderers of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko. In 1987, the Almeida also became home to Motley Theatre Design Course, under the directorship of Margaret Harris.
The Not the RSC Festival was presented at the Almeida in 1986 and 1987.
Work by major playwrights, old and new, British and foreign was staged and the theatre acquired an artistic reputation comparable to the leading theatres in central London and, as noted by playwright David Hare, "it reinvented the European repertoire for London audiences and made British theatre more cosmopolitan and outward going". Organised as a non-profit producing theatre its productions regularly played to packed houses and frequently transferred to the West End (14 between 1990 and 2002) and to Broadway.
In 1993 the theatre won the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.
One of the keys to the success and reputation of the Almeida during the 1990s were the stagings of various plays by Harold Pinter. These included revivals of Betrayal in 1991 and No Man's Land in 1992 and premières of Party Time in 1991 and Moonlight in 1993.
During their time at the theatre, McDiarmid and Kent were described by The Guardian as "[making] Islington a centre of enlightened internationalism" and, as they were about to leave their positions in 2002, Michael Billington, in same newspaper, summed up their achievements as threefold:
Three things have made the Almeida the most exciting theatre in Britain. First, an eclectically international programme: everything from Molière and Marivaux to Brecht and Neil LaBute. Second, top-level casting that has given us Ralph Fiennes in Hamlet and Ivanov, Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh and Juliette Binoche in Naked. Third, a territorial expansion that has seen the Almeida colonise the Hackney Empire, the old Gainsborough film studios and even a converted bus depot in King's Cross".
In November 1999, the Almeida was awarded £1.5 million by the Arts Council of England to undertake essential repairs to the theatre. The work began early in 2001 when the theatre was closed, and the company moved temporarily to a converted bus station at King's Cross. National Lottery backing of £5.8 million allowed for a complete restoration.
The restoration included rebuilding and extending the foyer, installing more comfortable seating and access, plus better backstage facilities with the stage area re-built for flexibility and strength, the roof improved and insulated, the lighting grid strengthened, complete re-wiring, and technical equipment updated.
Michael Attenborough took over as artistic director in 2002 and, following the completion of its restoration, the theatre was re-opened in May 2003 with a production of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea, directed by Trevor Nunn. The theatre's artistic remit was the presentation of bold and adventurous play choices staged to the highest possible standards, in productions which revealed them in a new light. This included classics from the British, American and Irish repertoire, foreign classics in newly commissioned versions, and new plays.
In October 2012 Attenborough announced that he would step down early in 2013.
Rupert Goold was appointed Artistic Director in February 2013, taking up the post full-time in September 2013. His association with the Almeida Theatre Company began in 2008 when he directed Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. In 2013 his Headlong theatre company co-produced the premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica, directed by Lyndsey Turner, at the Almeida: the show subsequently transferred to the West End, winning five Olivier Awards in 2014. Goold's first Almeida production as full-time artistic director was the world premiere production of American Psycho: A new musical thriller (initially programmed by Michael Attenborough), which ran from 3 December 2013 to 1 February 2014. In 2014 he directed the premiere of Mike Bartlett's play King Charles III, which, following its sold-out run at the Almeida, transferred to Wyndham's Theatre and Broadway.
Almeida Projects is the Almeida Theatre's education and community programme. It was founded in its current form in 2003 by Rebecca Manson Jones, after Michael Attenborough's appointment as artistic director. Almeida Projects activity includes durational residencies with partner schools, a subsidised ticket scheme for school groups visiting the theatre, productions of new plays for young people inspired by the main programme, the Young Friends of the Almeida scheme, social networking Teachers' Evenings for local performing arts teachers and a training programme for workshop leaders.
Almeida Projects works closely with nine partner schools in Islington: Central Foundation Boys' School, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, Highbury Fields School, Highbury Grove School, Islington Arts and Media School, Mount Carmel Catholic College for Girls, The Bridge School and City and Islington College. The Young Friends of the Almeida Theatre scheme was established in May 2008 to enable local young people to take part in activities outside of school. It currently has over 700 members and includes the Young Friends of the Almeida Creative Board, composed of young people who take an active role in planning and promoting all Young Friends activities.
The Almeida was one of the launch theatres for Digital Theatre, a project which makes theatre productions available in video download form. The first performance that was filmed was 'Parlour Song'.
The 2018 Laurence Olivier Awards was held on 8 April 2018 at the Royal Albert Hall, London. The ceremony was hosted by comedian and actress Catherine Tate.Hamilton was nominated for a record 13 awards, ultimately claiming seven awards.2019 Laurence Olivier Awards
The 2019 Laurence Olivier Awards morning was held on 7 April 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall. The ceremony was hosted by Jason Manford.Andrew Scott (actor)
Andrew Scott (born 21 October 1976) is an Irish film, television, and stage actor. In 2010, he achieved widespread recognition playing the role of Jim Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock, a dramatic role which continued until 2017. In 2017 he won acclaim playing the title role of Hamlet in a production first staged at the Almeida Theatre, directed by Robert Icke, and for which he has been nominated for a 2018 Olivier Award for Best Actor.Scott has received various awards including two Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre for his roles in A Girl in a Car with a Man at the Royal Court Theatre, along with his role in Cock, also at the Royal Court. He has also won two IFTA awards for his roles in the films Dead Bodies and The Stag, a British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Sherlock, a BIFA Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Pride, and two BBC Audio Drama Awards for his radio work.Celebration (play)
Celebration is a play by British playwright Harold Pinter. It was first presented as a double-bill, with Pinter's first play The Room on Thursday 16 March 2000 at the Almeida Theatre in London.Chimerica (play)
Chimerica is a 2013 play by the British dramatist Lucy Kirkwood directed by Lyndsey Turner. It draws its title from the term Chimerica, referring to the predominance of China and America in modern geopolitics. It premiered at the Almeida Theatre from 20 May 2013 to 6 July 2013, in a production co-produced with Headlong before transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre.David Leveaux
David Leveaux (born 13 December 1957) is a British theatre director who has been nominated for five Tony Awards as director of both plays and musicals. He directs both in the UK, working at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Almeida Theatre, and the Donmar Warehouse, on Broadway, and also in Tokyo.
Leveaux made his film directorial debut with The Exception, which will be released by A24.Festen (play)
Festen is a British stage adaptation of the Danish film of the same name (The Celebration being the film's release title in North America). The adaptation is by English playwright David Eldridge. It was first staged in 2004 by producer Marla Rubin at the Almeida Theatre in London, and has since been staged in many countries around the world.Ian Charleson Awards
The Ian Charleson Awards are theatrical awards that reward the best classical stage performances in Britain by actors under age 30. The awards are named in memory of the renowned British actor Ian Charleson, and are run by the Sunday Times newspaper and the National Theatre. The awards were established in 1990 after Charleson's death, and have been awarded annually since then. Sunday Times theatre critic John Peter initiated the creation of the awards, particularly in memory of Charleson's extraordinary Hamlet, which he had performed shortly before his death. Recipients receive a cash prize, as do runners-up and third-place winners.
The awards' current definition of a classical play is one written before 1918. The awards for the previous year's performances are presented the following year. The 2017 awards were presented on 18 May 2018, and the winner was Natalie Simpson.Ian McDiarmid
Ian McDiarmid (; born 11 August 1944) is a Scottish actor and director. He has appeared in 47 films since 1976. He portrayed Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars film series. He has received an Olivier Award for Best Actor and a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performances.Ink (play)
Ink is a 2017 play by James Graham. Directed by Rupert Goold, the play began previews at the Almeida Theatre on 17 June 2017, with an official opening night on 27 June. It played a limited run to 5 August. The cast included Bertie Carvel as Rupert Murdoch and Richard Coyle as the editor of The Sun, Larry Lamb. Reviews were generally favorable.The production transferred to the West End at the Duke of York's Theatre, again led by Carvel and Coyle, officially opening on 19 September 2017 following previews from 9 September. It concluded its run on 6 January 2018.The play made its Broadway premiere on 2 April 2019 (previews), officially on 24 April 2019, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Bertie Carvel plays Murdoch and Jonny Lee Miller plays Larry Lamb. Direction is by Rupert Goold.James Macdonald (director)
James Macdonald is a British theatre and film director who is best known for his work with contemporary writers such as Caryl Churchill. He was associate and deputy director of The Royal Court from 1992-2006. There he staged the premiere of Sarah Kane's Blasted (1995), her highly controversial debut which sparked a Newsnight debate on BBC Television. He also directed the premiere of Kane's Cleansed (1998) and 4.48 Psychosis which opened after her suicide.Born in 1958, Macdonald began working as a director at the Royal Court under Max Stafford-Clark, in his twenties after graduating from Oxford University and L'Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq. Since leaving the Royal Court in 2007 Macdonald has worked extensively in New York, in most of the major theatres across London and the West End, and directed a 2008 feature film of A Number by Caryl Churchill for HBO/BBC Films.His productions include Fewer Emergencies by Martin Crimp at the Royal Court (2005), Glengarry Glen Ross in the West End (2007), The world premiere of The Arrest of Ai Weiwei at the Hampstead Theatre (2013) and Bakkhai at Almeida Theatre in 2015.James Macdonald is on the board of Stage Directors UK.King Charles III (play)
King Charles III is a 2014 play in blank verse by Mike Bartlett. It was premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in April 2014 and centres on the accession and reign of King Charles III of the United Kingdom, the possible regnal name of the real Charles, Prince of Wales, and the limiting of the freedom of the press after the News International phone hacking scandal.
A 90-minute television adaptation was broadcast on BBC Two on 10 May 2017.Lindsay Posner
Lindsay Steven Posner (born 6 June 1959) is a British theatre director, known for his work in London's West End and at the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, particularly plays by David Mamet.Moonlight (play)
Moonlight is a play written by Harold Pinter, which premiered at the Almeida Theatre, in London, in September 1993.Pierre Audi
Pierre Audi (born 1957 in Beirut, Lebanon) is a French-Lebanese theatre director and artistic director.Robert Icke
Robert Icke (born November 29, 1986) is an English writer and theatre director. He has been referred to as the "great hope of British theatre."He is currently the Associate Director of London's Almeida Theatre. He is best known for his modern adaptations of classic texts, including versions of Oresteia, Mary Stuart, Uncle Vanya, and 1984, devised with Duncan Macmillan.Rupert Goold
Rupert Goold, (born 18 February 1972) is an English theatre director. He is the artistic director of the Almeida Theatre. Goold was the artistic director of Headlong Theatre Company (2005–2013).Susannah Fielding
Susannah Glanville-Hearson (born 10 June 1985), known professionally as Susannah Fielding is an English actress who has worked in theatre, film, television and radio. She won the 2014 Ian Charleson Award for her portrayal of Portia in The Merchant of Venice at the Almeida Theatre. She also starred in the CBS sitcom The Great Indoors. In 2019, she co-starred with Steve Coogan in This Time with Alan Partridge.Tobias Menzies
Hanan Tobias Simpson Menzies (born 7 March 1974) is an English stage, television and film actor. While working in theatre, he starred in television shows such as Rome (2005–2007), wherein he played Brutus, and Game of Thrones (2013–2016, 2019), wherein he played Edmure Tully. He is probably best known for his dual role as Frank Randall and Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall in Outlander (2014–2018), for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination. His film work includes Casino Royale and Underworld: Blood Wars. Menzies will portray Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in the third and fourth seasons of the original Netflix series The Crown.
Theatres in London
|Off West End|