Islington Tribune - by SIMON WROE Published: 28 March 2008
The site which will include the Collins Theatre as it appears today – the venue is due to open in 18 months
Theatre ‘Goliath’ could mean curtains for fringe
IT is the cultural destination that has tantalised London culture vultures for the past six years – a £28 million arts, restaurant and apartment development in the heart of Islington. But the impending arrival of the 600-seater Collins Theatre in the basement of the new complex, on the Islington Green site of the legendary Collins Music Hall, has received a mixed reception from the established Angel theatre scene.
Fringe theatres in particular have expressed concerns that a Goliath in their midst might wheedle audiences away from smaller neighbouring productions, which cannot compete on budget.
Cecilia Darker, artistic director of The Rosemary Branch Theatre in nearby Shepperton Road, said: “I don’t think we really need another theatre in Islington. We’ve got most bases already covered, and it’s not as if the fringe theatres are packed out every night.”
But Andrew Daws, a partner with the original architects CZWG, promised the 10,000 square foot development would be unlike anything else in Islington when it opened in 18 months time. “The Collins Theatre will be offering a different kind of experience than, say, the King’s Head,” he said. “It’s not like we’re overburdening the area. I think it just adds to the culture of the borough. A new theatre anywhere in London is a very rare thing. People ought to be excited.”
Pleasance Theatre director Anthony Alderson said he welcomed “artistic growth” to the area but urged the new theatre – the brainchild of multi-millionaire property developer Robert Bourne and Old Vic chief executive Sally Greene – not to exclude the area’s existing fringe. “What they [the new developers] have to do is encourage and unify the market. It’s dangerous when theatres exist exclusively – they must pay heed to those who’ve been here for a long time. If they exclude us it would be a terrible shame.”
Back in 2002, Islington Council granted planning permission to the Sam Collins Theatre Trust and CZWG – forsaking affordable housing in return for the theatre.
The venue’s design was inspired by the Elizabeth Rose Theatre, where a young Shakespeare learned his craft in the late 16th century.
Stephanie Sinclair, the artistic director of the King’s Head Theatre, believed the Collins Theatre would add “cultural vibrancy” to Upper Street. “We would welcome as many theatre premises as we can get – the more the merrier,” she added.
The site was the former home of the Collins Music Hall – which was opened by former chimney sweep Sam Collins in 1863 and attracted a range of stars before a fire in 1958 spelled its end.