The King’s Head in Islington showed off the refurbishment of its pub theatre to guests and members of the press today, who were treated to a sneak preview of two musical numbers from its ambitious 2008 season – the first in a decade to be fully produced in-house.
New lighting equipment, men’s toilets and padded bench seating – increasing the seating capacity from 112 to 140 – have been installed at the King’s Head, which has long been in need of extensive refurbishment. The work has finally been completed after a long fundraising campaign, spearheaded by the venue’s Artistic Director Stephanie Sinclaire, following the death of her husband and the founder of the King’s Head, Dan Crawford, in 2005, which sent the venue to its “lowest point in history”, said Sinclaire today.
In addition to a fundraising gala every other week for a year, financial support has been garnered from sponsors, commercial investors and philanthropists, allowing the theatre to present its own fully-produced season in a refurbished space this year.
Speaking today, Sinclaire praised the theatrical community, who “rallied round” to ensure the future of the theatre. Now, said Sinclaire, the King’s Head has been brought “kicking and screaming into the 21st century – completely bypassing the 20th, I might add!”
The new season kicks off on 24 March with the world premiere of Cole Porter’s musical The Black And White Ball, and continues with three more musical premieres and a trio of dramas. Today’s guests were treated to excerpts from two musicals in the season, Guy Bolton and Vivian Ellis’s Godiva and Ian McFarlane’s Betwixt!
Speaking about the season, Sinclaire told Official London Theatre: “I’m very, very happy. It’s been a long time in the planning. There’s a lovely phrase – ‘slow progress builds a mighty foundation’ – and it’s really been brick by brick, step by step, and I feel we’re absolutely ready for this. It’s an extraordinary team, all the shows have amazing attachments. I sincerely hope that we will be able to go the whole year with really high quality, commercial, but also interesting new productions.”
Commenting on the fundraising journey leading to today’s launch, she said: “I had a mission, there were a lot of obstacles in my way, especially early on, but I did have a kind of inner conviction that we would get here.” The King’s Head, she added, has gained the support of the theatrical community because “It is their theatre, where they can come – brilliant newcomers or very well known artists – and try new material in a very safe space.”
One of those well-known actors, Celia Imrie, is a long-time supporter of the King’s Head, and last played there in 2003 in one-woman show Unsuspecting Susan. Imrie echoed Sinclaire’s comments that the King’s Head is “kept alive by love” from its supporters. “It absolutely is, and I think you can tangibly feel it. In my day you didn’t get paid anything, practically at all, to work here and therefore you are absolutely doing it for love. It’s a great element. People come back here because they’ve all had wonderful experiences, chances possibly that they wouldn’t have had anywhere else.” She added: “Long may it last.”