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Islington's King's Head Theatre to relaunch as opera house

PUBLISHED: 18:46 21 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:12 14 October 2010

FORTY years after it became the country s first pub theatre, the King s Head is breaking records again – by re-launching as London s first new opera house in more than four decades.

FORTY years after it became the country's first pub theatre, the King's Head is breaking records again - by re-launching as London's first new opera house in more than four decades.

The King's Head Theatre, in Upper Street, Islington, has seen the likes of Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman tread its boards during its illustrious history as a leading fringe theatre.

Now it is hoping to bring opera to the masses by bringing old favourites, new commissions and its own creations to its stage.

The change is the brainchild of new artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher, the 28-year-old artistic director of the Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn and a trained opera singer.

Mr Spreadbury-Maher said: "The King's Head Theatre was the first pub theatre in London since Shakespearean times. Now it's going to be the first pub opera house. Opera will become a lot more accessible now. People will get to experience opera in a more intimate affordable setting."

Mr Spreadbury-Maher has been made artistic director by King's Head owner Stephanie Sinclaire, whose late husband Dan Crawford opened the King's Head Theatre in 1970.

Ms Sinclaire made the decision after recognising the same entrepreneurial spirit that Mr Crawford was known for in Mr Spreadbury-Maher.

He said: "The Cock Tavern was a brand new fringe theatre with absolutely nothing going for. It would have been very easy to just hire it out but I thought it was important to build up the reputation of the venue. We became the only full-time producing fringe house in London.

"I ended up getting the Peter Brook Empty Space Dan Crawford Award, which is in Dan's memory and is normally given to theatres who have been around for 10 to 15 years. When Stephanie and I met for a drink, she told me that she felt like she was sitting next to Dan."

Ms Sinclaire, who bought the venue last year with patron Joanna Lumley's help,: "In the spirit of the King's Head, it's a complete innovation. The idea of bringing opera to the people is also perfect for our ethos. I hope everybody in Islington will come forward and experience opera in this setting."

The King's Head Theatre's opening production will be The Barber of Seville (or Salisbury), which transports Rossini's musical comedy to Jane Austen's England. It runs from October 6 until November 13.


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