Islington church is transformed into performance venue for first time

Ballet operas including one based on a celebrated Russian dancer will be showcased at a former church which has been transformed into a performance venue.

The Gloucester Group, a new performing arts company, is holding productions of The Clown of God and The Mariner at the Nave in St Peter’s Church in St Paul’s Road, Islington.

The listed building, which dates to the 18th century, has housed the St Paul’s Steiner School for children since 1994. Now the venue will become a stage for professional vocalists.

Ann Pennington, one of the Gloucester Group founders, said: “The Nave is a very good setting with fantastic acoustics for the singers. We are very excited.”

The Clown of God, derived from a Micheal Arditti play, imagines the true story of ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, with the ailing performer incarcerated in a sanatorium cell and subject to daily insulin.


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A combination of a fresh operatic score and breathtaking choreography is promised as he recounts the highs and lows of his remarkable life.

The Mariner, based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, features a tale of one man’s guilt and redemption after he kills a senior officer.

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Ann said: “Both are wonderful productions. The singing in the Mariner is spell-binding.”

The plays have been directed by Ann and choreographer Sue Lefton.

Ann is an actress who has starred in various West End Shows, while Sue Lefton was the head of movement at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The composer is Louis Mander, aged 26, who studied at The Royal College of Music in London.

The Gloucester Group was founded by Ann, Sue and Louis in 2011 and aims to produce “new accessible opera and rough edged yet powerful theatre with young professionals.”

Ann said: “We have young people with wonderful voices from the Royal College of Music who are taking their first steps into the operatic world.”

* The two short chamber operas will be performed only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week until November 20 at 7.30pm.

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