Camden is home to a set of theatres and theatre spaces that have, at various times in the twentieth century, been sites of work which is experimental both in terms of its artistic achievement and in terms of its community and educational involvement.
Few other boroughs of London, or indeed the UK, boast this concentration. These include Centre 42 (now the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm), the Drill Hall (Bloomsbury), the Embassy Theatre (Swiss Cottage), the Hampstead Everyman (Swiss Cottage), InterAction in Kentish Town (now Interchange and Weekend Arts College in Belsize Park) and Unity Theatre in King's Cross (now CYPT West Euston). Some of these venues pioneered formal and semi-formal connections between the theatre and their communities. Leading examples are:
- Centre 42 - early sixties: links into the trade union movement
- Drill Hall - early seventies: home of the early festivals of women's theatre and feminist writing
- InterAction - late sixties: making work with and by communities
- Unity Theatre - mid thirties: promoting and disseminating theatre for amateur groups nationwide
In addition, the programming of various theatres deliberately spoke to Camden's diverse communities: for example, the Embassy (late twenties) addressed issues of race and the rise of fascism in Europe. The first Brecht plays in the UK were performed in the borough.
The borough also hosts many of the experimental fringe and pub theatres that have developed a range of creative and innovative work for particular local communities, Teatro Technis in Somers Town has served the Greek Cypriot community since the 70's.
Camden People's Theatre in Hampstead Rd has a unique reputation for incubating new work,with pub theatres such as the Lion and Unicorn in Kentish Town and the Gatehouse in Highgate undergoing a revival of interest.The Etcetera Theatre in Camden Town and home to the Camden Fringe Festival every August goes from strength to strength.
Several Camden venues have served and developed lasting educational legacies, with the Bloomsbury Theatre and the Cochrane Theatre in Holborn playing a leading role in the Higher Education Sector, whilst both the Vanbrugh Theatre at RADA and the Embassy Theatre at the Central School of Speech and Drama continue to play a vital role in training and developing the sector, as do the Tower Street based Actors Centre and Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden
Theatre is still growing in the borough,exciting new venues continually spring up,these include St Stephens in Rosslyn Hill, only Connect a former Baptist chapel conversion off the Grays Inn Rd as well as a new community theatre space in Osnaburgh street West Euston.
We have theatre spaces in our hospitals, community centres and schools delivering a range of project work on a daily basis. Many outstanding theatre companies work in the borough without public performing spaces, these include Complicite,Clean Break, Spare Tyre as well as over twelve more active professional smaller companies. Camden Theatres come together in a consortium, to help each other as venues,develop joint work and projects as well as work with the Council to engage more local people in their work. The consortium aims to engage new local audiences, promote quality theatre experiences and pilot new ways to actively involve Camden communities. If you would like to know about theatre in Camden contact Chris Mellor, LB Camden Senior Arts Development Officer email firstname.lastname@example.org