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Theatre’s second act opens in former gym

After a 14-year interval – and fears it would fold – amateur company again has its own home

08 June, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Tower Theatre chairman David Taylor in what will be one of the new rehearsal spaces

AN amateur dramatics society has converted a swimming pool into a giant costume room as part of a redevelopment that will create a new theatre.

Members of Tower Theatre have searched for a new base for more than 14 years after losing their former home at Canonbury Tower.

The group offered the public a sneak preview of their new theatre in a former women-only gym in Stoke Newington on Monday evening.

“I joined the theatre a year after they left the tower and at the time there was great despondency,” said Martin Mulgrew, the group’s artistic director.

The 300-strong Tower Theatre resorted to rent­ing out multiple stages and rehearsal spaces to continue producing 20 plays a year.

Mr Mulgrew added: “At the time, people were saying: ‘We’re all going to fold. It’s all gone wrong.’ It was hard but now we are going to turn this space into a real community hub.”

Sarah Ambrose with lighting equipment

There will be a bar at the theatre alongside multiple rehearsal rooms, a new box office, and a huge circular stage. The company helped kickstart the careers of actors Tom Courtenay, Siân Phillips, John Saunders and Michael Gambon.

Fresh from project managing Crossrail – the 118-kilometre rail link connecting Berkshire and Brentwood in Essex – David Taylor is helping lead the redevelopment of the gym which pre­viously housed a church.

“It’s a lot of responsibility because I was the one who said we could do it,” he said.

Mr Taylor, who lives off Caledonian Road, is chairman of Tower Theatre, which he joined as a director in 1975.

At its new home, he had to help oversee the removal of tonnes of steel and concrete from around the basement pool.

Sarah Ambrose, a trustee at the theatre who cut her teeth doing lighting for shows, said it took four years to secure their new home. “There was a lot of to-and fro-ing and I don’t take no for an answer. Our build­ers and project managers have been a great boon to us,” she said.

The group lost their former home in Canonbury Tower following a clerical mix-up which meant their lease was not renewed in time. A legal settlement has contributed to the cost of their new space.

First performance in the new theatre at 16 Northwold Road will be Shakespeare’s Henry V in August.


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