Southwark Playhouse is set to reopen in a new permanent, purpose-built location next year, writes Kit Heren…
The theatre will move from its current premises on Newington Causeway to the Uncle building, an exclusive new Elephant and Castle development around half a mile south.
The new venue will seat 300, meaning it is larger than the main theatre in the Newington Causeway building, which has room for 240 people. The overall capacity will be smaller, as the current building has a second, smaller theatre with 120 seats.
But it’s unclear how many people the new theatre will be able to seat under social distancing rules, with the government and venues across the UK still planning how to make theatres “Covid-secure”.
The move to the new building has been partly funded by Unity Trust Bank, which is providing £920,000, while other backers gave more than £2 million between them.
Chris Smyrnios, artistic director and chief executive of Southwark Playhouse, said: “This was an ambitious project for a small organisation like ours. The developers built the shell and core of the theatre but we needed to raise £3m to complete the building.
“The financial support we received from Unity Trust Bank at the beginning of this project gave confidence to other backers and we were able to reach our target. Unity’s support unlocked everything for us and helped make this project happen.”
Southwark Playhouse was founded by actress Juliet Alderdice and her husband Tom Wilson, a deputy head teacher, in 1993 to help foster local acting talent and provide a resource for the community.
The theatre puts on several productions a year and runs free charity programmes alongside Southwark Council and local community groups.
Janet Geohagen, relationship manager at Unity Trust Bank, said: “Southwark Playhouse shares our values in wanting to make a positive difference to society.
“Thousands of people in the local area benefit from free arts and culture facilities and we are delighted the charity now has a new home where it can develop and grow.”
Building work on the new venue will finish at the end of July but the theatre will not open until 2021.
Chris Smyrnios said: “The new theatre will provide dedicated space for all of our community groups and will enable us to put on bigger shows.”
Southwark Playhouse’s performance space remains closed, like all indoor theatres, but its bar is open to visitors.