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David Mitchell among stars turning out to support Islington theatre

PUBLISHED: 14:34 23 June 2011 | UPDATED: 16:38 24 June 2011

David Seidler, Daniel Rigby and David Mitchell

David Seidler, Daniel Rigby and David Mitchell

Dieter Perry

»Some of the biggest names on stage and screen have teamed up to support a campaign by an Islington theatre famous for nuturing young talent.

Pleasance Theatre - the facts

- The Pleasance Theatre first opened it’s doors in Islington in 1995.

- The building used to be a timber store for London Omnibus Timber Store, and the old winch is still visible by the entrance.

- Every year, the Pleasance Theatre creates 21 venues at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which host more than 250 productions and 5,000 performances.

- The Pleasance Theatre is a registered charity that receives no regular government subsidy - all revenue from Edinburgh shows goes towards supporting up-and-coming artists.

- Some of the biggest names in the business performed at the Pleasance during their formative years, including, Paul Merton, Jo Brand, Stewart Lee, Caroline Quentin, Julian Clary Steve Coogan and Hugh Dennis.

David Mitchell, star of Channel 4’s Peep Show; David Seidler, who wrote the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech and Daniel Rigby, who won a BAFTA for his role in the BBC drama Eric and Ernie, saw their early careers jump-started by the Pleasance Theatre in Carpenters Mews, Holloway.

Now they are returning the favour – and going back to their roots – by publicly backing a plan to raise £4.5million to build a new auditorium, improve facilities and invest in up-and-coming productions.

The theatre hopes to raise the money by auctioning off the famous cobblestones in its courtyard at £50 a time and by giving people the opportunity to be caricatured in a beaux tapestry alongside famous actors, which will cost £300.

Mr Mitchell, who performed his first two-man production with Peep Show co-star Robert Webb at the Pleasance, said: “We were very nervous and not sure if people would come, which sometimes they didn’t, but it was great to be able to come and try stuff out.

“You can point to certain stages in your career where certain people have helped you and the Pleasance Theatre is at the top of that list.”

Priceless

Fellow comic Mr Rigby, who was given a chance to perform in the theatre’s Comedy Reserve in 2008, added: “The experience and opportunity afforded to me by the Pleasance and the amount I learnt in such a short space of time, were priceless.”

Mr Seidler also paid homage to the support he was given by the theatre when developing The King’s Speech.

“It may seem strange for me to be come here when I have written a film that has made £400million, but The Kings Speech would not have come into being without the Pleasance,” he said.

“It gave us the opportunity to see the script on stage for the first time in an non-intimidating atmosphere.”

The theatre, which has been in Holloway for 17 years, receives no government subsidy and relies completely on the money it makes in Edinburgh during the festival.

But more is needed for the new project and Anthony Alderson, director of the Pleasance, hopes people will cough up.

“With the way art funding has been cut, places where young talent can grow are more vital than ever,” he said.

“This the perfect time for us to do it, and I am confident that over a number of years, we will get the money.”


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