An Exciting New Chapter for the Lion & Unicorn Theatre

It’s a bloody tough job, running a fringe theatre. Margins are tight. Runs are short. And it’s a rare thing to see any support from the Arts Council.

Given the underlying economics, it’s hardly surprising that the relationship between fringe venues and theatre makers can end up being transactional and not much more. Whilst some pub theatres are just a space to rent, when there’s enough passion and talent behind them they can become so much more. The best ones, like Theatre503, the Finborough, Above the Stag & the King’s Head, are destinations in themselves, where audiences know they can keep coming back for quality, curated programming.

The team who have just taken over the Lion & Unicorn theatre in Kentish Town have experienced first hand how hard it can be to make work at some fringe theatres. At the re-launch this week, the new Artistic Director David Brady and Producer Lauren Gauge, spoke about their vision for supporting emerging artists. Their attitude is clear from the simple stuff. “We’re going to answer every email, return every phone call.”

David Brady, Lauren Gauge & Alex Knott at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre relaunch event

Whether their inbox management is up to the challenge remains to be seen, but it’s encouraging to hear. On one level, it’s just about treating people with common decency. But this ‘my door’s always open/no dumb questions’ approach is also about building a community of artists around the building. If you’re a lone writer, they say, perhaps they can put you in touch with a director you could collaborate with. If you’re not sure whether your work is ready for a full performance, it might be right for an upcoming scratch night. If you want to get involved, but don’t know how, the worst thing you can do is not get in touch.

The support for theatre makers isn’t limited to advice either. Artists will be excited to hear that the new Lion & Unicorn will be offering theatre makers free rehearsal space and marketing/PR support. That alone can make a huge difference – and the Lion & Unicorn will be going even further by producing work with a select number of Associate Companies, the first of which are Proforca Theatre, Boxless Theatre and Fight or Flight Productions.

It’s an ambitious plan, and it remains to be seen if it’ll work out, but it’s an exciting statement of purpose by the new team at the helm of this charming pub theatre. We’ll be keeping an eye on them over the coming months – and if you’re an artist, check out their submissions page as they’re programming their Spring & Summer seasons now!

Guest blog: David Byrne on New Diorama’s Takeover of VAULT Festival

David Byrne is the Artistic & Executive Director of the New Diorama Theatre.
For a chance to win tickets to ALL the shows in the NDT Takeover, see below!

I love VAULT Festival.

You get all the buzz, excitement and great theatre of going to the Edinburgh Fringe, but you get to sleep in your own bed, all your houseplants don’t die from neglect and, at the end of the month, you’re not left with a lot of bank notes that no English shops will accept.

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Love & Devotion in Dystopia

By Niki Campbell, content manager @Stagedoor

What is it that’s so delicious about dystopia?

The world of art has predicted, realised and moved through generations of dystopias, and we continue to create and dissect them now. We revel creatively in the pain and frustration, the chilling detail in our collective terror about the future. And why not…

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User reviews: The BEST or the WORST?

By Niki Campbell, Content Manager @ Stagedoor.

I have a love-hate relationship with user reviews.

Like most people I will use Google to avoid disappointment when choosing a restaurant, Airbnb, hairdryer or hand drill BUT I do it reluctantly and would still rather a friend tell me what a great meal they had at this or that trendy new cafe.

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Different Every Night — The Company Breathing New Life Into Improvised Comedy

Not many companies can boast of a residency at The Natural History Museum. But as of 2017 improvised comedy group Do Not Adjust Your Stage have been able to do exactly that. On top of this they can also boast (but they don’t!) of two other residencies running at The Free Association and The Nursery Theatre and all this only a few years after a group of students from Sheffield University decided to form a fledgling improv troupe. I got in contact with Helen O’Donnell, one of the current ensemble of eight, and asked what it is that draws the group to improvisation:

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The Right Ingredients — The Croydonites Festival of New Theatre

By Ethan Taylor, Stagedoor Team.

Croydonites Festival of New Theatre is underway!

The festival, now in its second year, aims to present the works of bold and intrepid theatre companies whilst also providing a platform for local artists. At the helm is Anna Arthur, director of the festival with twenty five years’ worth of experience within the industry.

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Dancing grapefruits, inflatable wings, fake tan and other ways to tackle grief

By Niki Campbell, Content Manager @Stagedoor.

Grief is a universal issue. If you haven’t experienced it as a result of loss, perhaps you can identify with the sensation that the world is, for many, a scary place to be right now.

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Leading By Example: How Theatre Can Think For Itself

By Ethan Taylor, Stagedoor Team.

As we all well know, regardless of which sides of the many fences you may sit on, 2016 was a year of great social, political and cultural upheaval. As a result the world of theatre has been galvanised, producing a myriad of works to reflect and open the debate on issues such as gender equality, racial discrimination, political elitism and the current refugee crisis.

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