This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Almeida Theatre" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Almeida Theatre
1833: Islington Literary and Scientific Society
1875: Wellington Club
Almeida Theatre in June 2011
London, N1
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°32′22″N 0°06′12″W / 51.5395°N 0.1032°W / 51.5395; -0.1032
Public transitNational Rail Essex Road
OwnerAlmeida Theatre trust
DesignationGrade II listed
TypeProducing house
Capacity325, over two levels
ProductionShort seasons
Opened1833 (as reading rooms)
Rebuilt1982 (as theatre)
ArchitectRoumieu and Gough

The Almeida Theatre, opened in 1980, is a 325-seat producing house with an international reputation, which takes its name from the street on which it is located, off Upper Street, in the London Borough of Islington. The theatre produces a diverse range of drama. Successful plays are often transferred to West End theatres.

Early history

The theatre was built in 1837 for the newly formed Islington Literary and Scientific Society and included a library, reading room, museum, laboratory, and a lecture theatre seating 500.[1] The architects were the fashionable partnership of Robert Lewis Roumieu and Alexander Dick Gough. The library was sold off in 1872 and the building was disposed of in 1874 to the Wellington Club (Almeida Street then being called Wellington Street) which occupied it until 1886. In 1885 the hall was used for concerts, balls, and public meetings. The Salvation Army bought the building in 1890, renaming it the Wellington Castle Barracks (Wellington Castle Citadel from 1902). To suit the building's new purpose, the front-facing lecture hall's tiered benches were replaced so that the congregation was seated in the conventional position, facing away from the front, and a balcony was added. The Salvationists remained there until 1955. For a few years from 1956 the building was a factory and showroom for Beck's British Carnival Novelties, then remained empty until in 1972 a campaign began to turn it into a theatre.[1][2]

The building was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1972. The current modified building retains the listing.[2]


The campaign to open the building as a theatre was led by the Lebanese-born internationally renowned opera and theatre director Pierre Audi, after he had acquired the derelict building in 1972.[3] A public appeal was launched and in 1980, with the building renovated, the theatre opened with a festival of avant-garde music and performance, held both there and at other Islington venues, with Audi as the Artistic Director. Under Audi the theatre's reputation grew and its annual contemporary music festival became highly regarded.

The Almeida International Festival of Contemporary Music and Performance included concert presentations and productions of new and commissioned operas from Europe, Russia, North America, Japan, Argentina, and Morocco. Among the hundreds of composers, musicians and ensembles featured in frequent world and local premiere performances were Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Morton Feldman, Elliott Carter, Virgil Thomson, Frederic Rzewski, Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Wolfgang Rihm, Claude Vivier, Toru Takemitsu, Giacinto Scelsi, Michael Finnissy, Gerald Barry, Somei Satoh, Akio Suzuki, Takehisa Kosugi, Jo Kondo, Sylvano Bussotti, Luis de Pablo, Capricorn, Spectrum, Music Projects/London, Singcircle, the Arditti Quartet, and the London Sinfonietta.

Peter Greenaway's 1983 series of films for Channel 4 Four American Composers featured Almeida presentations of works by John Cage, Robert Ashley and Philip Glass. In 1985 Ástor Piazzolla, the renowned Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player, made a week-long appearance with his Quinteto Nuevo Tango. For several years, the American pianist and composer Yvar Mikhashoff conceived and co-ordinated concert programming, including At the Tomb of Charles Ives: A Celebration of American Experimental Music 1905-1985 which featured world and UK premieres of works by Cage, Nancarrow, Glass, Feldman, Harrison, Rzewski, Charles Ives, George Antheil, Henry Brant, Anthony Braxton, Carla Bley, Roger Reynolds, Charles Wuorinen, and Lukas Foss and two piano marathons he performed himself: The Great American Piano Marathon: 70 works from 70 years in 7 Hours and 50 Tangos - 50 Composers - A Tango Marathon: Selections from the International Tango Collection.[4]

The Almeida housed a producing company which commissioned and staged several theatre works and operas and was a London "receiving house" for Fringe, avant-garde, regional and international theatre productions.[5] Touring companies from the UK were regularly hosted, including Complicité, Shared Experience, Joint Stock, Cheek by Jowl and the Leicester Haymarket, alongside international guest companies from the Philippines, Tibet, Israel, Ireland and Czechoslovakia. Stage directors of Almeida Theatre Company productions included Pierre Audi, Ian McDiarmid, Yuri Lyubimov, Tim Albery, Mike Bradwell, David Hayman, and Jean Jourdheuil. Works by directors Robert Wilson, Robert Lepage, Phelim McDermott, Julia Bardsley, Deborah Warner, Simon McBurney, Annabel Arden and several others were featured in Almeida presentations.

Peter Brook's Bouffes du Nord company played there in 1982 (Brook's company had been one of Audi's original influences for the project). The 1985 Almeida Theatre Company production of The Possessed,[6] a co-production with the Théâtre de l'Europe in Paris which also toured to the Piccolo Teatro in Milan and the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, was Russian director Yuri Lyubimov's first to originate in the West after he defected in 1983[7] and featured music by Alfred Schnittke, design by Stefanos Lazaridis, and actors Nigel Terry, Clive Merrison, Harriet Walter, and Michael Feast. Ronald Harwood's documentary drama, The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest premiered at the Almeida in October 1985, an early example of a transcript of a trial of the political murderers of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko.[5] In 1987, the Almeida also became home to Motley Theatre Design Course, under the directorship of Margaret Harris.

The Not the RSC Festival was presented at the Almeida in 1986 and 1987.


In 1990 the Scot Ian McDiarmid and the South African Jonathan Kent took over as joint artistic directors.

Work by major playwrights, old and new, British and foreign was staged and the theatre acquired an artistic reputation comparable to the leading theatres in central London and, as noted by playwright David Hare, "it reinvented the European repertoire for London audiences and made British theatre more cosmopolitan and outward going".[8] Organised as a non-profit producing theatre, its productions regularly played to packed houses and frequently (14 productions between 1990 and 2002) transferred to London's West End and to New York's Broadway.[9]

In 1993 the theatre won the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.

One of the keys to the success and reputation of the Almeida during the 1990s were the stagings of various plays by Harold Pinter. These included revivals of Betrayal in 1991 and No Man's Land in 1992 and premières of Party Time in 1991 and Moonlight in 1993.

During their time at the theatre, McDiarmid and Kent were described by The Guardian as "[making] Islington a centre of enlightened internationalism";[10] and, as they were about to leave their positions in 2002, Michael Billington, in same newspaper, summed up their achievements as threefold:

Three things have made the Almeida the most exciting theatre in Britain. First, an eclectically international programme: everything from Molière and Marivaux to Brecht and Neil LaBute. Second, top-level casting that has given us Ralph Fiennes in Hamlet and Ivanov, Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh and Juliette Binoche in Naked. Third, a territorial expansion that has seen the Almeida colonise the Hackney Empire, the old Gainsborough film studios and even a converted bus depot in King's Cross".[11]

1999 to present

In November 1999, the Almeida was awarded £1.5 million by the Arts Council of England to undertake essential repairs to the theatre. The work began early in 2001 when the theatre was closed, and the company moved temporarily to a converted bus station at King's Cross.[12] National Lottery backing of £5.8 million allowed for a complete restoration designed by Burrell Foley Fischer.[13]

The restoration included rebuilding and extending the foyer, installing more comfortable seating and access, plus better backstage facilities with the stage area re-built for flexibility and strength, the roof improved and insulated, the lighting grid strengthened, complete re-wiring, and technical equipment updated.[14] Michael Attenborough took over as artistic director in 2002 and, following the completion of its restoration, the theatre was re-opened in May 2003 with a production of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea, directed by Trevor Nunn. The theatre's artistic remit was the presentation of bold and adventurous play choices staged to the highest possible standards, in productions which revealed them in a new light. This included classics from the British, American and Irish repertoire, foreign classics in newly commissioned versions, and new plays.[5] In October 2012 Attenborough announced that he would step down early in 2013.[15]

Rupert Goold was appointed Artistic Director in February 2013, taking up the post full-time in September 2013. His association with the Almeida Theatre Company began in 2008 when he directed Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. In 2013 his Headlong theatre company co-produced the premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica, directed by Lyndsey Turner, at the Almeida: the show subsequently transferred to the West End, winning five Olivier Awards in 2014. Goold's first Almeida production as full-time artistic director was the world premiere production of American Psycho: A new musical thriller (initially programmed by Michael Attenborough), which ran from 3 December 2013 to 1 February 2014. In 2014 he directed the premiere of Mike Bartlett's play King Charles III, which, following its sold-out run at the Almeida, transferred to Wyndham's Theatre and Broadway.

Almeida Projects

Almeida Projects is the Almeida Theatre's education and community programme.[16] It was founded in its current form in 2003 by Rebecca Manson Jones, after Michael Attenborough's appointment as artistic director. Almeida Projects activity includes durational residencies with partner schools, a subsidised ticket scheme for school groups visiting the theatre, productions of new plays for young people inspired by the main programme, the Young Friends of the Almeida scheme, social networking Teachers' Evenings for local performing arts teachers and a training programme for workshop leaders.

Almeida Projects works closely with nine partner schools in Islington: Central Foundation Boys' School, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, Highbury Fields School, Highbury Grove School, Islington Arts and Media School, Mount Carmel Catholic College for Girls, The Bridge School and City and Islington College. The Young Friends of the Almeida Theatre scheme was established in May 2008 to enable local young people to take part in activities outside of school. It currently has over 700 members and includes the Young Friends of the Almeida Creative Board, composed of young people who take an active role in planning and promoting all Young Friends activities.

Digital Theatre

The Almeida was one of the launch theatres for Digital Theatre, a project which makes theatre productions available in video download form. The first performance that was filmed was 'Parlour Song'.[17]

Artistic directors

Notable productions







  1. ^ a b Baker, T. F. T.; et al. (1985). "Islington Social and cultural activities". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  2. ^ a b Historic England. "Almeida Theatre (Grade II) (1195445)". National Heritage List for England.
  3. ^ "History of the Almeida Theatre". Almeida Theatre. Archived from the original on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  4. ^ Clements, Andrew (19 June 2014). "Panorama of American Music review – eclectic picks from intrepid recitalist Yvar Mikhashoff". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Coveney, Michael (September 2017). "Almeida Theatre". London theatres. ISBN 978-0711238619.
  6. ^ a b Coveney, Michael (5 October 2014). "Yuri Lyubimov". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  7. ^ Doder, Dusko (27 July 1984). "Leading Soviet Director Stripped of Citizenship". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  8. ^ Kellaway, Kate (27 January 2002). "Almeida: end of Act One". The Observer. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  9. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (5 September 2001). "Celebrated double act quits Almeida theatre". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2007.
  10. ^ Billington, Michael (6 July 2002). "The Players". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Billington, Michael (12 January 2002). "It's like being in love". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  12. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (30 April 2001). "The Almeida in King's Cross". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Islington's new-look Almeida theatre | Stage | The Guardian". 5 May 2003. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  14. ^ "The Building".
  15. ^ "Michael Attenborough steps down at Almeida". Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Almeida Projects at the Almeida Theatre London". Archived from the original on 17 December 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  17. ^ "Leading theatres launch downloadable shows". Official London Theatre Guide. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
  18. ^ Cummings, David M (13 June 2000). International Who's who in Music and Musicians' Directory. London: Routledge. p. 26. ISBN 0-948875-53-4.
  19. ^ Oida, Yoshi (January–February 1982). "Yoshi Oida successfully used techniques of the old Zen masters to provoke audience response" (PDF). Performance Magazine (15): 12–14. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  20. ^ Diop, Birago. "L'Os by Birago Diop". BBC Sounds. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  21. ^ Montague, Stephen (1985). "John Cage at Seventy: An Interview". American Music. 3 (2): 205–216. doi:10.2307/3051637. JSTOR 3051637.
  22. ^ Ashley, Robert. "Artists". Lovely Music Ltd. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  23. ^ "FOUR AMERICAN COMPOSERS: ROBERT ASHLEY: PERFECT LIVES (PRIVACY RULES) (TV)". The Paley Center for Media. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  24. ^ "Productions: Perfect Lives". Robert Ashley. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  25. ^ (Bay-Cheng, Sarah (1 June 2004). Mama Dada: Gertrude Stein's Avant-Garde Theatre. Routledge. p. 160. ISBN 9780203503027. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  26. ^ Mesa, Franklin (2007). Opera: An Encyclopedia of World Premieres and Significant Performances, Singers, Composers, Librettists, Arias and Conductors, 1597-2000. McFarland a& Company, Inc. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-7864-7728-9. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  27. ^ "Hedda Gabler". IbsenStage. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  28. ^ Billington, Michael (20 December 2019). "The Michael Billington archive: highlights from five decades of reviews". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  29. ^ Lichtenfels, Peter (2002). "British Intersections With Paris" - Afterword in The Paris Jigsaw: Internationalism and the City's Stages. Manchester University Press. p. 284. ISBN 978-0719061844. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  30. ^ Hayes, Michael (September 1985). "Almeida Festival: Antheil, Vivier et al". Tempo (New Series, No. 154): 46–49. JSTOR 946360.
  31. ^ "Kopernikus". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  32. ^ "Man Equals Man by Bertolt Brecht". Photostage. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  33. ^ Svich, Caridad. "Inviting the Audience". Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  34. ^ "King Lear". Deborah Warner. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  35. ^ "Coriolanus, 1986". Deborah Warner. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  36. ^ "News". Banipal Magazine of Modern Arab Literature. 10 May 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  37. ^ "Multitalent Milva wird 75". Nordwest Zeitung. 7 December 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  38. ^ McDermott, Phelim (2007). Physical Theatres: A Critical Reader (Essay 5). Routledge. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-415-36251-1. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  39. ^ Sweeney, B. (14 February 2008). Performing the Body in Irish Theatre. Springer. pp. 50–60. doi:10.1057/9780230582057. ISBN 978-1-349-54607-7. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  40. ^ Clements, Andrew (18 April 2012). "Jakob Lenz - Review". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  41. ^ "Hamletmachine". Robert Wilson. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  42. ^ "The Resistable[sic] Rise of Arturo Ui (Queens Theatre) and The Tourist Guide (Almeida Theatre)". The Spectator. 18 April 1987. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  43. ^ Griffel, Margaret Ross (21 December 2012). Operas in English: A Dictionary. Scarecrow Press. p. 516. ISBN 978-0-8108-8272-0. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  44. ^ Clements, Andrew (1988). "Finnissy's Undivine Comedy". The Musical Times. 129 (1745): 330–332. doi:10.2307/964740. JSTOR 964740.
  45. ^ "Golem". Grove Music Online. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  46. ^ "Performance". Julia Bardsley. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  47. ^ "Polygraph". bizbooks. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  48. ^ Shulman, Milton (13 March 1989). "Hell afloat". Evening Standard. p. 34. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  49. ^ Dervan, Michael (31 May 2011). "The Intelligence Park". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  50. ^ "The House of Bernarda Alba". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  51. ^ Kellaway, Kate (25 June 2017). "Hamlet review – an all-consuming marvel - 5 out of 5 stars". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  52. ^ "Shipwreck review – vital political drama takes Trump seriously | Theatre | The Guardian". 20 February 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  53. ^ "Almeida Theatre". 21 May 2023. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  54. ^ "Patriots". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 18 June 2023.
  55. ^ "Tammy Faye". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  56. ^ "A Streetcar Named Desire West End | Almeida Theatre, London". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  57. ^ "The Secret Life of Bees | Almeida Theatre, London". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  58. ^ "Romeo and Juliet". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 7 June 2023.
  59. ^ "A Mirror". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 27 August 2023.
  60. ^ "Portia Coughlan". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  61. ^ "Cold War". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  62. ^ "King Lear". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 17 October 2023.