Second chance for restored church-turned-theatre

Published January 14, 2009

Hampstead landmark St Stephen’s church, which has lain derelict since 1977, will re-open in March following a £4 million restoration with a season of shows by emerging theatre company Antic Disposition.

During 2009, the company, formed in 2005 by director Ben Horslen and designer John Risebero, will stage The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (17 March to 19 April), Much Ado About Nothing (23 June to 19 July) and A Christmas Carol (8 December to 3 January).

To celebrate the venue’s second chance, the plays were chosen as they each feature characters who go astray but find forgiveness and the opportunity of a new life.

Antic Disposition’s relationship with St Stephen’s, which, it is hoped, will also be able to house concerts, exhibitions and private events, began in 2005 when the company presented a previous version of A Christmas Carol as part of its fundraising efforts. It has also staged Richard III in the abandoned church. Elsewhere, Antic Disposition has staged The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Jermyn Street theatre and annually takes Shakespearean productions to southern France in August.

Prior to St Stephen’s being given Grade 1 listed status, there were plans to tear down the Victorian building and replace it with luxury flats or a car park. Instead, St Stephen’s Restoration and Preservation Trust, with the backing of celebrity supporters including Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench and Jude Law, was able to restore the Gothic structure.

MA