Almeida Theatre

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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 and holds an annual summer festival of contemporary opera, music and theatre. Successful plays are often transferred to West End theatres.

Early history

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.<ref name=TFTB>Template:Cite web </ref> 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.<ref name=TFTB/><ref name=imagesofengland>Template:Cite web</ref>

The building was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1972. The current modified building retains the listing.<ref name=imagesofengland/>


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.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> 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 (now known as Almeida Opera) 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 Tango Nuevo. 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.

Throughout the 1980s the Almeida Theatre was a London 'receiving house' for Fringe, avant-garde and provincial theatre productions. Touring companies from the UK were regularly hosted, including Shared Experience, Joint Stock, Theatre Complicite, Cheek by Jowl and the Leicester Haymarket. The Almeida also presented numerous contemporary music and performance events and productions from Western and Eastern Europe, North America, Japan, Argentina, Israel, Morocco, the Philippines, and Tibet, and also housed a producing company which commissioned and staged several theater works and operas (see list below). Among the dozens of stage directors, composers, 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 Popieluszko. 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.


In 1990 the Scot Ian McDiarmid and the South African Jonathan Kent took over as joint artistic directors.

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.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref>

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: Template:Quote box


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 current artistic remit is the presentation of bold and adventurous play choices staged to the highest possible standards, in productions which reveal them in a new light. This includes classics from the British, American and Irish repertoire, foreign classics in newly commissioned versions, and new plays.[1]

In October 2012 Attenborough announced that he would step down early in 2013.

Almeida Projects

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 Friend 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 eight partner schools in Islington: Central Foundation Boys' School, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College, Highbury Fields School, Highbury Grove School, Islington Arts and Media School, Mount Carmel RC Technology College for Girls, The Bridge School and City and Islington College. The Young Friend 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 350 members and includes the Young Friend of the Almeida Creative Board, composed of young people who take an active role in planning and promoting all Young Friend activities.

Digital Theatre

The Almedia 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'.

Artistic directors

  • Pierre Audi, (1979–1989)
  • Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid, (1990–2002)
  • Michael Attenborough, (2002–2013)
  • Rupert Goold (2013–)


Template:Too many examples The bracketed numerals against each entry refer to the relevant Theatre Record page numbers


  • The Seagull (Shared Experience) 13 Oct-7 Nov 1981 (540)


  • A Dybbuk for Two People adapted by Bruce Myers 6–7 June 1982 (297)
  • L’Os (The Bone) by Birago Dilip (Bouffes du Nord) 20–31 October 1982 (582)
  • Venice Preserv'd by Thomas Otway 3–21 November 1982 (610)
  • The Insomniac in Morgue Drawer 9 by Andy Smith (Shared Experience) 24 November -5 December 1982 (659)
  • One Man, Steven Berkoff 2–5 December 1982 (??)
  • Cage at 70 Festival (including performance of John Cage's Roaratorio featuring The Chieftains)


  • Fen by Caryl Churchill (Joint Stock) 16 February-12 March 1983 (111)
  • Ariadne’s Afternoon, devised by Natalie Morgan 19–30 April 1983 (293)
  • Courts Circuits/Le Blouses (Le Compagnie Jérôme Deschamps) 9–19 May 1983 (357)
  • Yum Yum (Bloolips) 31 May-4 June 1983 (425)
  • The Crimes of Vautrin by Nicholas Wright from Balzac (Joint Stock) 23 June-16 July 1983 (492)
  • Put It On Your Head (Theatre Complicite) 26 September-1 October 1983 (841)
  • Odds’n’Sods (Bloolips) 11–22 October 1983 (877)
  • Four Saints in Three Acts opera by Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson


  • War Music by Christopher Logue 5–14 April 1984 (261)
  • Hedda Gabler in the Christopher Hampton version directed by Tim Albery (Almeida Theatre Company) 24 April-19 May 1984 (536)
  • Mrs Gauguin by Helen Cooper (Almeida Theatre Company) directed by Mike Bradwell 1–16 June 1984 (469)
  • The Fridge written and performed by Copi 10–14 July 1984 (604)
  • Melancholy Jacques by Jean Jourdheuil (Almeida Productions at the Edinburgh Festival/Traverse Theatre and the Bush Theatre)
  • Perfect Lives/Private Parts opera by Robert Ashley


  • Man Equals Man by Bertolt Brecht (Almeida Theatre Company) 20 Feb-9 March (157)
  • The Possessed, Yuri Lyubimov’s Dostoevsky adaptation (Co-produced by the Almeida Theatre Company and the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, Paris, on tour to the Piccolo Teatro, Milan, and Bologna) 21 March-2 April (252)
  • A Bolt out of the Blue, devised by Mary Longford 30 April-4 May 1985 (391)
  • Medea by Euripides, translated by Rex Warner (Leicester Haymarket) 7–15 May 1985 (426)
  • The Bald Prima Donna by Eugène Ionesco and Bedtime Story by Sean O’Casey (Leicester Haymarket) 16–18 May 1985 (456)
  • Woyzeck Georg Büchner revival (Leicester Haymarket) 20–25 May 1985 (456)
  • Le Tango Stupefiant (Helen Delavault performance) 28 May-7 June 1985 (507)
  • The Cenci by Percy Bysshe Shelley (Bristol New Vic) 15–27 July 1985 (667)
  • Lark Rise by Keith Dewhurst’s Flora Thompson adaptation revived (Leicester Haymarket) 19 September -12 October 1985 (934)
  • The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest by Ronald Harwood, 17 October-9 November 1985 (1041)
  • King Lear directed by Deborah Warner (Kick Theatre) 20–30 November 1985 (1169)
  • Cupboard Man adapted for the stage by Julia Bardsley and Phelim McDermott from the short story by Ian McEwan (dereck dereck productions) 9–21 December 1985 (1223)
  • White Rose by Peter Arnott (Traverse Theatre) [Almeida ‘lates’] 9–21 December 1985 (1225)
  • Kopernikus opera by Claude Vivier directed by Pierre Audi


  • The Story of the Eye and the Tooth (El-Hakawati Theatre Co) 2–18 January 1986 (5)
  • Three Storeys and a Dark Cellar (IOU Theatre) 6–11 February 1986 (118)
  • The Saxon Shore by David Rudkin, directed by Pierre Audi (Almeida Theatre Company) 27 February- 22 March 1986 (205)
  • Milva Sings Brecht, Italian Chanteuse, 25–29 March 1986 (287)
  • People Show No 91 A Romance (revival) 2–19 April 1986 (326)
  • The Merchant of Venice (Leicester Haymarket) 22–29 April 1986 (416)
  • Baal, Christopher Logue translation of Brecht, 30 April-6 May 1986 (462)
  • The Phoney Physician, Jack Laskowski version of Molière, 7–10 May 1986 (503)
  • Creditors by August Strindberg (Almeida Theatre Company) 19 May-7 June 1986 (527)
  • Dybbuk adapted by Bruce Myers, revival, 16 July-2 August 1986 (772)
  • Not the RSC 2: Two weeks of work by RSC members, 5–17 August 1986
  • Coriolanus directed by Deborah Warner (Kick Theatre) 18 September- 11 October 1986 (1006)
  • Supper Goodnight with:Carthage (Akademia Ruchu, Lublin) 14–18 October 1986 (1133)
  • Gaudete adapted for the stage by Julia Bardsley and Phelim McDermott from the prose poem by Ted Hughes (dereck dereck productions) 28 October-15 November 1986 (1191)
  • The Great Hunger by Tom MacIntyre from Patrick Kavanagh, directed by Patrick Mason (Abbey Theatre) 25 November-13 December 1986 (1313)
  • The King and the Corpse (Indian Folk Tales, Not the RSC) 16 December 1986-3 January 1987 (1393)


  • Losing Venice by John Clifford (Traverse Company) 6–17 January 1987 (6)
  • Panata Sa Kalayaan (Philippine Education Theatre Association) 27–31 January 1987 (90)
  • Kathie and the Hippopotamus by Mario Vargas Llosa 26 February-21 March 1987 (233)
  • The Tourist Guide by Botho Strauss (Almeida Theatre Company) 8 April-2 May 1987 (429)
  • Mystere Bouffe (Le Theatre du Radeau, France) 5–16 May 1987 (538)
  • Tattoo Theatre by Mladen Materic (Tetovirano Company) 29 September-17 October 1987 (1259)
  • Hamletmachine by Heiner Muller, adapted by Robert Wilson, 4–14 November 1987 (1415)
  • Nana by Olwen Wymark, based on Zola (Shared Experience) 18 November-5 December 1987 (1480)
  • The Traveller by Jean-Claude van Itallie (Leicester Haymarket) 9 December 1987-9 January 1988 (1586)
  • Frankenstein! pan-demonium by H.K. Gruber
  • Jakob Lenz opera by Wolfgang Rihm


  • The Prophet devised by Renu Setna (Carib Theatre Productions) 13–23 January 1988 (240)
  • Venus and Lucrece by Bardy Thomas from Shakespeare, 27 January-20 February 1988 (92)
  • The Possibilities, short plays by Howard Barker, 25 February-19 March 1988 (230)
  • The Story of Ku Ur Shamma by J Lubeck and Abu Salem, 29 March-16 April 1988 (405)
  • Moon on a Rainbow Shawl by Errol John, 5 May-4 June 1988 (581)
  • Hello and Goodbye by Athol Fugard (RSC) 5 August-27 September 1988 (1044)
  • Keeping Tom Nice by Lucy Gannon (RSC) 11 August-29 September 1988 ( 1077)
  • Oedipus by Seneca (RSC) 18 August-1 October 1988 (1104)
  • The World of My Dreams play selection in Yiddish, 8–13 October 1988 (1413)
  • Theatre Complicite retrospective season, 17 October 1988-21 January 1989
A Minute Too Late (1453)
Ave Maria, Linda Kerr Scott
Miss Dunnithorne’s Maggot by Peter Maxwell Davies (1598)
Food of Love (1598)
What Is All This Dancing? (1598)
The Visit by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1595)
More Bigger Snacks Now (1750)
My Army by Tim Barlow (1750)
Please Please Please (1750)
Phantom Violin by Gerard McBurney (1750)
  • The Undivine Comedy opera by Michael Finnissy


  • Anything for a Quiet Life (Theatre Complicite) 11–21 January 1989 (34)
  • The Vinegar Works by Edward Gorey (dereck dereck) 24–28 January 1989 (88)
  • Polygraph by Robert Lepage and Marie Brassard 23 February-4 March 1989 (230)
  • Indigo by Heidi Thomas 9 March-1 April 1989 (300)
  • Mozart and Salieri by Alexander Pushkin 7 April-5 May 1989 (421)
  • Molière’s Don Juan (Georgian Studio USSR) 16–27 May 1989 (625)
  • Cinzano by Ludmilla Petrushevstaya 10–15 July 1989 (960)
  • Pacha Mama’s Blessing by Douglas Hodge and Peter Searles (NYT) 29 August-30 September 1989 (1147)
  • King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company) 14 September-28 October 1989 (1248)
  • Kissing the Pope by Nick Darke (RSC) 21 September-26 October 1989 (1276)
  • HID - Hess Is Dead by Howard Brenton (RSC) 28 September-24 October 1989 (1327)
  • Lady Betty by Declan Donnellan (Cheek by Jowl) 30 November-23 December 1989 (1637)
  • Golem opera by John Casken
  • The Lamentations of Thel opera by Dmitri Smirnov 9–11 June 1989


  • Europeras 3 & 4 opera by John Cage June 17, 1990
  • The Intelligence Park opera by Gerald Barry
  • Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker, directed by Ian McDiarmid with Glenda Jackson and Jonathan Hyde (January 1990)
  • When We Dead Awaken by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Jonathan Kent (February 1990)
  • Betrayal by Harold Pinter, directed by David Leveaux with Martin Shaw and Cheryl Campbell (1991)
  • No Man's Land by Harold Pinter, directed by David Leveaux, with Harold Pinter, Paul Eddington and Douglas Hodge (1992), transferred to Comedy Theatre in 1993.
  • The Showman (Der Theatermacher) by Thomas Bernhard, directed by Jonathan Kent with Alan Bates (1993)
  • The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan, directed by Karel Reisz with Penelope Wilton (1993) transferred to Apollo Theatre
  • Moonlight by Harold Pinter, directed by David Leveaux with Ian Holm, Anna Massey and Douglas Hodge (1993)
  • Medea by Euripides directed by Jonathan Kent with Diana Rigg (1992) transferred to the West End and Broadway (1994)
  • Playboy of the Western World by J.M.Synge, directed by Lynne Parker with Aidan Gillen (1994)
  • Hamlet, Almeida Theatre Company at the Hackney Empire, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes as Hamlet and Francesca Annis as Gertrude (February 1995) transferred to the Belasco Theatre on Broadway
  • The Silver Tassie by Sean O'Casey, directed by Lynne Parker (1995)
  • Tartuffe by Molière, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ian McDiarmid and Tom Hollander (1996)
  • Ivanov by Anton Chekhov translated by David Hare, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes and Harriet Walter (1997)
  • Naked by Luigi Pirandello, directed by Jonathan Kent with Juliette Binoche (1998), transferred to the Playhouse Theatre
  • The Storm by Alexander Ostrovsky, directed by Hettie Macdonald with Tom Mannion, Susan Lynch and Maggie Steed (1998)
  • The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill, directed by Howard Davies with Kevin Spacey (1998, transferred to the Old Vic Theatre and to Broadway)
  • Phedre by Jean Racine, directed by Jonathan Kent, with Diana Rigg and Barbara Jefford (1998)
  • Britannicus by Jean Racine, directed by Jonathan Kent, with Diana Rigg and Barbara Jefford (1998)
  • Vassa by Maxim Gorky, directed by Howard Davies with Sheila Hancock (1999)
  • Richard II, Almeida Theatre Company at the Gainsborough Studios, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes (April–July 2000)
  • Coriolanus, Almeida Theatre Company at the Gainsborough Studios, directed by Jonathan Kent with Ralph Fiennes (June–July 2000)
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare directed by Jonathan Kent (final production) with Ian McDiarmid and Aidan Gillen (14 December 2000-17 February 2001) [2]
  • The Lady from the Sea by Henrik Ibsen in a version by Pam Gems, directed by Trevor Nunn, with Natasha Richardson and Benedict Cumberbatch (2003)[3].
  • I.D. by Antony Sher, directed by Nancy Meckler, with Antony Sher, Alex Ferns and Marius Weyers (2003)[4]
  • The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? by Edward Albee, directed by Anthony Page with Jonathan Pryce (2004)[5]
  • Festen, based on the film of that name and adapted by David Eldridge, directed by Rufus Norris (2004)
  • Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Richard Eyre with Eve Best (2005)[6]
  • Awake and Sing! by Clifford Odets, directed by Michael Attenborough with Stockard Channing (September 2007)[7]
  • Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill, directed by Thea Sharrock
  • Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, adapted for the stage by Moira Buffini, directed by Will Tuckett
  • The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, directed by Michael Attenborough
  • The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Steven Adly Guirgis, directed by Rupert Goold (2008)[8]
  • Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Anthony Page (2008)
  • Waste by Harley Granville Barker, directed by Samuel West (2008)
  • In a Dark Dark House by Neil LaBute, directed by Michael Attenborough (2008)
  • Duet for One by Tom Kempinski, directed by Matthew Lloyd (2009)
  • Parlour Song by Jez Butterworth, directed by Ian Rickson (2009)
  • When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell, directed by Michael Attenborough (2009)
  • Judgment Day by Ödön von Horváth, in a new version by Christopher Hampton directed by James Macdonald (2009)
  • Mrs Klein by Nicholas Wright, directed by Thea Sharrock (2009)
  • Rope by Patrick Hamilton, directed by Roger Michell (2009–10)
  • Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, directed by Michael Attenborough (2010)
  • Ruined by Lynn Nottage, directed by Indhu Rubasingham (2010)
  • The Knot of the Heart by David Eldridge, directed by Michael Attenborough (2011)
  • My City by Stephen Poliakoff, directed by Poliakoff (2011)
  • Reasons To Be Pretty by Neil LaBute, directed by Michael Attenborough (2011)
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare, directed by Michael Attenborough (2012)
  • The Dark Earth and the Light Sky by Nick Dear, directed by Richard Eyre (2012)
  • The Turn of the Screw, adapted from Henry James by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, directed by Lindsay Posner (2013)
  • Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood, directed by Lyndsey Turner (2013)
  • Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Richard Eyre (2013)


  • Theatre Record


External links

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