Live pub soap opera brings a bit of EastEnders to Islington

A LITTLE taste of EastEnders has come to Islington - with a live Queen Vic-style soap opera being played out among the regulars at a canalside pub.

Every Monday night at the Rosemary Branch, in Shepperton Road, Islington, a cast of cockney-speaking actors mingle with the locals in an innovative bid to bring theatre to a new audience.

Keri Jenkins, assistant producer of IsoProductions, the fringe theatre company which is putting on the show - called Shepperton Road - said: “It’s a bit of a mickey take out of EastEnders as there’s a real Queen Vic feel to it. The characters are stereotypical East End types and the narrative is quite dramatic.

“The opening theme tune comes on at 7pm and the characters start interacting with the people in the audience and each other.

“On the first night there was a blazing row between a couple with a baby. The bloke was not pulling his weight and the girl got cross and threw his pint all over him.

“The audience found it quite funny and a couple of them got wet but they didn’t seem to mind.”

Shepperton Road bills itself as a cross between EastEnders and Hollyoaks, with the slightly surreal twist of teen-based drama Skins.

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The aim of the project is to build relationships with local people before a bigger scale heritage production at the venue in June 2011, which will also involve residents from the Cranston Estate, off New North Road, Hoxton, and Sotheby Mews Day Centre, in Sotheby Road, Highbury.

“The pub is a bit in the middle of nowhere but there is quite a diverse mix of people living around there who wouldn’t normally access the theatre,” said Ms Jenkins.

“This is about bringing the communities that use the upstairs theatre and the downstairs pub together.”

Cecilia Darker, joint owner of the Rosemary Branch, said: “Before the first performance everyone was waiting with baited breath. The audience loved it and I was even asked to do a cameo role in the last episode.

“We had an opera in the middle of the pub a month ago so the Rosemary Branch regulars are getting used to entertainment of all sorts in the bar.

“It’s great for business as it reminds people that there’s a theatre upstairs and that’s what we do, as well as selling beer of course.”

- Shepperton Road was written by Rosa Connor and Afsaneh Gray and will be performed on Mondays at 7pm until November 29 as part of the theatre’s Branching Out season.