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Raise a glass as the Finborough prepares to re-open



Feature by Paul Nelson

THE thrilling news that the Finborough is reopening has brought the following facts.

Over the past six months, the new management of the Finborough Arms Pub - now renamed the Finborough - has completely refurbished the building, and they and the theatre have been working very closely together to create a welcoming environment for all patrons.

The new Finborough will be open daily until 11pm, and until midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, offering an extensive list of fine wines and beers, as well as expertly-prepared cocktails, and an excellent restaurant which will, at last, offer theatregoers a chance to enjoy a meal before or after the show.

Downstairs at the Finborough has been transformed into a DJ bar with intimate alcove seating and space for dancing, and will feature a revolutionary new digital music system - the very first of its kind in the UK. More details on all of these exciting developments can be found at www.thefinborough.com

The Finborough Theatre itself has had new windows installed, the seats have been refurbished and extensive works have been carried out backstage to provide the actors with a safe and welcoming working environment. The website has also been expanded - complete with a history of the local area, including the murderous past of Finborough Road.

Following one of most successful years ever in 2002, the theatre continues its policy of presenting New Writing, British premieres of foreign work, particularly from the USA and Canada, visiting companies from overseas, revivals - often for the first time - of neglected 20th century plays and music theatre.

The Finborough Theatre continues to be run by Artistic Director, Neil McPherson, who has programmed the theatre since 1999 - "it is his bold artistic policy that regularly provides sustenance" (Mark Shenton, BBC Radio).

The Finborough Theatre's Opening Season features three UK premieres of North American plays: Christmas on Mars, by cult American playwright, the late Harry Kondoleon, directed by Joss Bennathan, from April 1-26; followed by, from April 29-May 17, The Monument, by Colleen Wagner, which won Canada's most prestigious literary award - the Governor General's Award for Drama, directed by Helen Eastman; and, from May 21-June 14, a long-overdue opportunity for London audiences to see Tennessee Williams' Something Cloudy, Something Clear in its UK professional premiere, directed by exciting young director Tamara Harvey.

The Summer Season will include the London premiere of I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady from Rwanda, by Sonja Linden, directed by Drew Ackroyd (director of last year's UK premiere of The Destiny of Me) from June 17-July 12. From July 14 - August 10, The Sticking Place will present the world premiere of The End of the Sentence - Jeremy Freeson's haunting examination of the Russian underworld, directed by Adam Meggido.

From September 9-October 4, The Sticking Place will launch the autumn season with the world premiere of a play by actor, Tony Haygarth, on Shakespeare's Dark Lady of the Sonnets, Dark Meaning Mouse, reuniting him with director, Adam Meggido, following the success of their critically-acclaimed collaboration, The Lie at the King's Head; followed by two productions playing concurrently from October 7-November 1, the UK premiere of Adam Pettle's Zadie's Shoes, one of the most acclaimed new Canadian plays of recent years, directed by Lauren Fedyna, accompanied by late night performances of the performance piece, As If In Sleep, written and performed by Tim Barsky, direct from the United States.

The year will end with a new play commissioned for the Finborough Theatre - the poet W.H. Davies' autobiographical Young Emma, adapted for the stage by Laura Wade and directed by Tamara Harvey, from December 2-20.

Sunday and Monday one-night shows will include the return of Miranda Hart (Smack the Pony, This is Dom Joly) in Miranda Hart-Throbs, the Edinburgh sell-out success which played at the Finborough Theatre last year, on April 13 and 14, May 11 and 12 and July 6, 7, 27 and 28; and the world premiere of a new comedy, F-List Celebrity with Simon Lowe (The Grimleys) on June 8 and 9.

Other future plans include some special events to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Suffragette movement, the usual contribution to the local community's Earl's Court Festival, and, later in the year, the world premiere of In Brompton; or, Civilian and Military, a celebration in words and music of the residents of Brompton Cemetery, devised by Neil McPherson.

"You are more likely to find me at the Finborough than the Almeida" - Jack Bradley, Literary Manager, National Theatre

Founded in 1980, the Finborough Theatre is one of London's leading new writing venues. It also presents revivals - often for the first time - of neglected 20th century plays, music theatre and has become well known for its UK premieres of foreign work, particularly from Ireland, the United States and Canada. It presents work by companies from throughout the UK as well as from abroad.

2002 continued in this tradition with an idiosyncratic programme of new writing, UK premieres by foreign playwrights, long-overdue revivals, music theatre as well as visits from overseas theatre companies. The theatre also introduced two new ongoing policies.

In February, March, April, June and August 2002, it presented two plays in repertoire. This policy allowed the theatre to expand the choice of plays it could offer its audiences, and - as a completely unfunded venue - to ensure that it did everything possible to make the theatre accessible to companies with little financial backing while still offering them the opportunity to present their work over a four-week period.

The theatre has also taken a more pro-active approach to programming by directly commissioning young directors to present plays suggested by Artistic Director, Neil McPherson, which has led on to successful productions of The Destiny of Me, Larry Kramer's play (pictured right) which had been rejected by most of the UK's leading theatre companies, and Falkland Sound.

2002 began with two January productions - As If In Sleep, the UK premiere of a performance piece by Tim Barsky, direct from San Francisco, which will return for a four-week run this Autumn; followed by the Cornish Theatre Collective's UK premiere of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, which sold out and was named The Guardian's Pick of the Week.

"A genuinely transporting experience…The production greatly benefits from the intimacy of the Finborough, which allows the actors to really communicate with the audience. A delightful, unexpected treat, and perhaps a good omen of what the fringe may bring this year." The Guardian.

This production returned to London for a further run in December.

February's shows were Out in the Garden and Tarnished Angel, the world premieres of two new plays by Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, directed by Caroline Hadley. Out in the Garden was another sell-out show and transferred to the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms, while Tarnished Angel was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

May saw a return by resident company, The Steam Industry, with a long-overdue revival of Bertolt Brecht's Man is Man, directed by Mervyn Millar, which was named as one of London Theatre Reviews' Best Studio Productions of 2002. "This black comedy is pacy and driven. This is an intense theatrical experience." What's On

In June, the visiting one-man show from Australia unfortunately had to be cancelled, when the actor broke his leg(!), and instead the theatre presented a week's world premiere run for the new musical revue, Schwartz It All About, based on the music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz, with an outstanding West End cast. A transfer to The Bridewell is planned.

July featured two revivals in repertoire - Adam Smethurst's comedy The Very Nearly Love Life of My Friend Paul; and the first London revival of Simon Gray's Japes - "A revelation. It shows how a winning combination of cast and director can transform a bloated piece…into a tight bittersweet study of misplaced love. … a national tour must surely beckon" The Stage.

July also saw a pre-Edinburgh run by Miranda Hart in Miranda Hart-Throbs!, which went on to sell out in Edinburgh and will return to the Finborough Theatre in 2003.

July/August saw the long-overdue London premiere of The Destiny of Me by Larry Kramer, his sequel to The Normal Heart which sold out, and was Nicholas De Jongh's No 1 Critics' Choice in Hot Tickets for three weeks running. "This shattering drama of family relations and recrimination matches the emotional extremities of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Drew Ackroyd's superlatively acted, powerhouse of a production electrifies the little Finborough stage…His tragi-comedy, much admired in New York, but shamefully rejected by leading theatres over here…" Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard.

"The Finborough Theatre is host to the London premiere of a big play…a wonderful production of an excellent play that should have opened in London a long time ago" Jewish Chronicle.

"Congratulations to the Finborough's Neil McPherson and producer Elizabeth Freestone for giving London audiences the chance to see yet another example of American playwriting at its finest" Aleks Sierz, The Stage.

"The Destiny of Me is a big play performed with great attack in a tiny space..... This British premiere is a coup for the director Drew Ackroyd and for the Finborough" The Observer.

August again saw two revivals in repertoire, both revived in London for the first time - Falkland Sound, by Louise Page and members of the original cast, presented to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Falklands War; and Frank Pig Says Hello, the first London revival of the stage version of The Butcher Boy, by Patrick McCabe. Falkland Sound was named one of the British Theatre Guide's Top Five Plays in London.

The final production before closing for refurbishment was the world premiere of a new play by American writer Roger Kirby, Natural Inclinations, directed by Steven Little (pictured left), who went on to direct Robin Hood for the Caird Company at the National Theatre.

The website at www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk has a complete history of the venue, and of the many productions and people that have been connected with it including Clare Dowie, Ken Campbell, Mark Rylance, Naomi Wallace, David Farr, Anthony Neilson, Penetrator, The Censor, Rachel Weisz, The Steam Industry, Phil Willmott, Mark Ravenhill, Shopping and Fucking, David Eldridge, Tony Marchant, Brad Fraser, Robert Lang, Stephen Billington, Chris Lee, David Mamet, Lanford Wilson, Melanie Clark Pullen, Euan Morton (who has just received an Olivier Award nomination for his performance in Taboo), The League of Gentlemen and Liz Phelps' Modern Dance for Beginners, recently produced at the Soho Theatre.

Finborough Theatre, The Finborough, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED. (Five minutes from Earl's Court Underground and West Brompton Underground and National Rail). Box Office 020 7373 3842

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