Old Red Lion, Islington

(Redirected from Old Red Lion Theatre)

The Old Red Lion (ORL), also known as the Old Red Lion Theatre (ORLT) and The Old Red, is a pub and fringe theatre, at Angel, in the London Borough of Islington.

Old Red Lion, Islington
ORL; Old Red; Old Red Lion Theatre
The Old Red Lion Pub and Theatre, 2007
AddressSt. John Street
London, EC1
Coordinates51°31′53″N 0°06′22″W / 51.5314°N 0.1062°W / 51.5314; -0.1062
Public transitLondon Underground Angel
TypeFringe theatre
ProductionCountry Life
Opened1979; 45 years ago (1979)
Years active32

The theatre was founded in 1979 as the Old Red Lion Theatre Club. The pub was Grade II listed in 1994 by Historic England.

History edit

Previous buildings edit

The pub in itself is one of the oldest in London, having first been built in 1415 in what was then the rural village of Islington in open countryside and fields. A house called Goose Farm and some nearby cattle pens (for herds being driven to Smithfield Market) were the only structures to adjoin it, and St John Street (then called Chester Road) was a country lane.

"Evening" by Hogarth, featuring the old pub building in the background

In the late 18th century Chester Road became notorious for highwaymen, with patrols being provided to protect those travelling along it at night. At this time descriptions state that the Old Red Lion was a small brick house with three trees in its forecourt, visited by William Hogarth (who portrayed it in the middle distance of his painting "Evening", with the foreground being Sadler's Wells), Samuel Johnson and Thomas Paine (who wrote The Rights of Man in the shade of the trees in its forecourt).

Reconstruction (1899) edit

The Old Red Lion was rebuilt in 1899, designed by Eedle and Myers for Charles Dickerson and John William North,[1] adding two exits onto different streets. This gave the pub the nickname "the In and Out", since taxi passengers could avoid paying their fare by entering it through one door and disappearing through the other.[2]

The architectural style is Free-Classical style, but includes Neo-Jacobean and Renaissance elements. The building is four storeys high, with residential accommodation in the floors above the pub. The parapet is balustraded with a name panel inscribed with lettering in Arts and Crafts style: "THE OLD RED LION 1415 REBVILT 1899".[1]

The pub retains several identical pairs of original glazed doors with glazing, wrought iron wall lanterns on pillars, and much of its original interior.[1]

Theatre (1979) edit

In 1979 the pub became a family-run pub theatre, run by the Devine family.[3] A small studio theatre opened on the pub's first floor as the Old Red Lion Theatre Club. Under artistic director Charlie Hanson, it became a place for actors, directors, designers, writers, and technicians to experiment.[3]

After the King's Cross fire in 1987, the theatre was threatened with closure due to the tightening of fire regulations. Artistic director Ken McClymont raised funds to install a fire escape, to keep the theatre from closing.[3]

Heritage listing (1994) edit

The pub was Grade II listed in 1994 by Historic England.[1]

Description and people edit

The Old Red Lion's address is 418 St John Street.[1]

Damien Devine has been the landlord of the Old Red Lion (ORL) for 21 years, and is as of 2024 executive director of the theatre. Daughter Róisín Devine and wife Helen Devine are associate director/consulting producer. Another daughter, Mary, is also in the family business. Damien's niece Helen Devine was artistic director between 2004-2010.[3]

It is the main pub for the Capital Canaries, the official London fan club for Norwich City F.C., and live matches are screened for the supporters.[4][5]

The literary department reads over 1,000 scripts each year, under an open submissions policy.

Artistic directors edit

  • Charlie Hanson (1979–1981)
  • Jane Goldman (1981–82)
  • Mike Gilmore (1982-74)
  • Richard Hansom (1984–88)
  • Ken McClymont (1988–2002)
  • Melanie Tait (2002–2004)
  • Helen Devine (2004–2010)
  • Henry Filloux-Bennett (Artistic Director 2010-2011) (Co-Artistic Director) (2011–2012)
  • Nicholas Thompson (Co-Artistic Director) (2011–2012) (Artistic Director 2012-2014)
  • Stewart Pringle (Artistic Director) (2014–2016)
  • Clive Judd (Artistic Director) (2016-2017)
  • Katy Danbury (Artistic Director & Theatre Manager) (2017–2019)
  • Alexander Knott (Artistic Director, Theatre Manager & Digital Producer) (2019–2021)[6]
  • Helen Devine (Programmer, 2020[a] – May 2023)[3]
  • Jack Robertson (May 2023– present)[3]

Jack Robertson, originally from Manchester, has a master's degree in playwriting, but has spent most of his career doing sketch comedy, with directing, producing, and acting as extra-curricular activities. His company, Medium Rare Productions, won "Best Comedy Play" at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival in 2019.[3]

Awards edit

  • 2006: Dan Crawford Pub Theatre Award[7]
  • 2006: Empty Space Peter Brook Award[3]

Notable past productions edit

Nina Raine, winner of the 2006 Most Promising Playwright Award, staged her first show, Rabbit, at the Old Red Lion Theatre in March to April 2006.[8] Who is Eddie Linden, a play based upon Sebastian Barker's biography of poet and editor Eddie Linden, was staged in 1995.[9]

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ During the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping it open as much as possible.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e Historic England. "Old Red Lion public house (1195738)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  2. ^ "Fringe Benefits: The Old Red Lion Theatre". The Londonist. 4 June 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Jack Robertson; Alexander Knott; Katy Danbury; Clive Judd (June 2023). "Old Red Lion Theatre". London Pub Theatres Magazine. Includes interviews with previous artistic directors Jack Robertson, Alexander Knott, Katy Danbury, and Clive Judd. Archived from the original on 3 June 2024. Retrieved 2 June 2024. Last updated June 2023
  4. ^ "Norwich City TV games live in London". Capital Canaries. 25 May 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2024.
  5. ^ "History". Capital Canaries. Retrieved 3 June 2024.
  6. ^ "Alexander Knott Appointed Artistic Director of the Old Red Lion Theatre". 22 November 2019.
  7. ^ "The Empty SPACE...Peter Brook AWARDs". blanche marvin's london theatreviews. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011.
  8. ^ "Old Red Lion Theatre". Theatresonline.com. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  9. ^ Sansom, Ian. "Who is Eddie Linden". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 19 March 2019.

External links edit