Arts Theatre loses fight
The Arts Theatre in Lolndon’s West End which has been offering fringe drama on its 320-seat stage since 1927 has lost the battle to survive.
The theatre will be demolished to make way for an entertainment hub, including a 400-seat auditorium, restaurant and bar, and a hotel with a roof-top swimming pool, following approval of the plan by Westminster City Council.
Louis Hartshorn, executive director of the Arts Theatre, told the Evening Standard: “We came to the Arts in 2008 and took over the lease in 2010, and are proud to have restored the reputation the Arts deserves. It is with a heavy heart that we leave this wonderful and historic location, especially following the recent period of creative and commercial success”. He said the landlord, Laurence Kirschel, whose company acquired the site in 2006, was helping to find a new venue.
Kirschel said the venue would help solve the West End problem of finding somewhere to eat before or after a show. “We are trying to address ll the problems that occur with going to the theatre in central London” he said. “And if we do it correctly – and I believe we will – we will show an example for other theatres to follow”.
The theatre in the new venue will be run by PW Productions whose chief executive, Peter Wilson, has announced he is leaving the Norwich Theatre Royal where he has been CEO for 25 years. He said the new venue, focusing on drama, will open in 2018 with PW Productions having a 24 year lease, “so we’ll have plenty of time to experiment and expand and to make the place busy” he told The Stage.
The Arts Theatre opened in Great Newport Street in 1927 as a members-only club to perform unlicensed plays, getting round the censorship of the `Lord Chamberlain's office. It saw the English language world premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, diffracted by a 24-year-old Peter Hall, and later aaas try home of the Unicorn children's theatre. More recently it hosted ground-breaking productions, such as The Vagina Monologues.