“Whatever happened to all the heroes? All the Shakespearoes?”
So sang The Stranglers when they performed in the basement of the Hope & Anchor in 1977.
The answer might be… well, they made themselves at home upstairs.
Open since 2013, the Hope Theatre occupies the first floor of the 19th-century building that’s also home to the infamous North London pub and music venue. Over the years, punk and new wave bands from Joy Division to The Cure have taken the mike at the latter. The theatre is more a place for young hopefuls than established acts, but it shares its sense of anything-goes intimacy.
The two rows of seats for the audience almost feel part of the stage set, with no separation between them and the performance space. You really are in the thick of the action here. Stick out a leg at an inopportune moment and you’re liable to trip up an actor. If a cast member becomes a little too theatrical, you might get one in the face.
The proximity to the pub lends an informality to proceedings – stuffy it ain’t, with the waft of beer and tunes from the jukebox occasionally drifting up the stairs and into the room. But the performances are taken seriously. Covering every genre from high-falutin’ musicals to hard-hitting drama, the Hope has staged productions with some serious heft. It’s seen a number of plays transfer to the West End, as well as premieres and revivals from playwrights including Dennis Potter and local lad Joe Orton.
With show runs often only programmed for a night or two, there’s a feel of catch it while you can. And who knows, book yourself a ticket and there’s a chance you’ll be the first to witness the next Shakespearo before they hit the big time.
Words by Amanda Canning
NOTE: The Hope Theatre runs a frequently changing programme of performances. You can see what’s on, and book tickets (from £16 plus booking fee), HERE.
Hope Theatre | 207 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RL
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