Kiln Theatre
Tricyle Theatre 1980–2018
Address269 Kilburn High Road
London, NW6
United Kingdom
Public transitLondon Overground Brondesbury
London Underground Kilburn
OwnerKiln Theatre Ltd
Rebuilt1989, 1998, 2018
Years active1980–present
ArchitectTim Foster Architects[1]
Chapman Architects

The Kiln Theatre (formerly the Tricycle Theatre) is a theatre located in Kilburn, in the London Borough of Brent, England. Since 1980, the theatre has presented a wide range of plays reflecting the cultural diversity of the area, as well as new writing, political work and verbatim reconstructions of public inquiries.

The theatre has produced original work by playwrights such as Lynn Nottage, Patrick Barlow, Richard Bean, David Edgar, Stephen Jeffreys, Abi Morgan, Simon Stephens, Roy Williams, Lolita Chakrabarti, Moira Buffini, Alexi Kaye Campbell, Florian Zeller, Ayad Akhtar and Zadie Smith.

The current artistic director is Amit Sharma, who succeeded Indhu Rubasingham, in December 2023, who in turn had succeeded Nicolas Kent in 2012.[3]

The theatre's name was changed from the Tricycle to Kiln Theatre in April 2018.


Wakefield Tricycle Company

The theatre opened on the Kilburn High Road in 1980 as the permanent home of the Wakefield Tricycle Company, a touring theatre company that was known for producing British premieres, new writing, children's shows and theatre for the community in London and south-east England. The Wakefield Tricycle Company had been started in 1972 by Ken Chubb and Shirley Barrie, performing initially in a room behind the Pindar of Wakefield pub in King's Cross. The name Wakefield Tricycle Company was adopted as a pun on the Wakefield Cycle of mystery plays, the pub's name and the fact that the initial company had three members.

The company commissioned new plays which it presented at arts centres around the country and then brought into small London theatres, such as The Bush and King's Head. The Wakefield Tricycle produced over 60 plays including works by Sam Shepard, John Antrobus, Olwen Wymark and co-founder Barrie.[4][5][6]

The building

After securing the support of Brent London Borough Council, the Greater London Council and Arts Council England, the company was given a lease and began converting the Foresters' Hall on the Kilburn High Road into the Tricycle Theatre ("Wakefield" being dropped from the company's name at this point), opting for this space due to the lack of local entertainment facilities for the residents of Kilburn at the time. The Foresters' Hall, which was built for the Ancient Order of Foresters, had previously been used for various purposes, including as a cinema and as a music and dance hall and as temporary offices for Brent Housing Department and Rent Tribunal.[4][5][6]

The then 235-seat[2] auditorium, designed by architect Tim Foster and theatre consultant Iain Mackintosh, was modelled on the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, Yorkshire. It was built using free-standing system-scaffolding that supported padded benches rather than individual seats. The pre-existing proscenium arch was in front of a stage so shallow as to be almost useless, so a large apron was built to take the acting area out into "the courtyard", leaving the old stage as almost a backstage area, frequently unused in productions, but leaving the theatre with the oddity of a proscenium arch framing a small rear, inner acting area.

In 1987 the theatre suffered a devastating fire that spread from a neighbouring timber yard and which seriously damaged the building. However, after extensive fundraising, the theatre was rebuilt and reopened in 1989, with only minor alterations.

In 1998, a 300-seat[2] cinema was added to the complex, and in 2001 the Creative Space was built for the theatre's extensive education and community work. All stages of the development were designed by Tim Foster Architects (now Foster Wilson Size).[1][7]

In July 2016, the theatre began to refurbish the theatre auditorium and front of house spaces, led by Chapman Architects.[8] In April 2018, the theatre announced its planned reopening in September 2018, as well as the 2018/19 season of plays.[9]

The refurbished building opened on 5 September 2018 with:


In April 2018 the theatre was renamed as Kiln Theatre. Artistic director Indhu Rubasingham said that the new name helped strengthen the venue's association with the Kilburn area and that kilns also have a relationship with all cultures around the world, and are symbols of creativity and culture.[12] Following this, a public petition was launched arguing that the name change was "unnecessary, costly and squanders the established reputation of The Tricycle".[13][14] As of July 2018 the petition was reported to have received over 2,000 signatures.[15] The theatre received public support from various industry professionals, including an open letter in The Guardian from actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton and articles from critics Lyn Gardner and Matt Trueman, as well as arts writer Jessie Thompson.[16][17][18][19] In September 2018 The Stage published an open letter in support of Kiln Theatre, including signatures from Richard Bean, Moira Buffini, Dominic Cooke, David Eldridge, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Simon Stephens and Erica Whyman.[20]

Later that month, The Guardian published an open letter[21] opposed to the name change, including signatures from both former Artistic Directors (Ken Chubb and Nicolas Kent) and 13 others, including several former Trustees (Pam Jordan, Tim Foster, Nicholas Allott, Mark Cummins, Rosalie Horner, Martin Dives, Errol Lloyd, Mustapha Matura, Janet Mokades, Andree Molyneux, Stephen Phillips and James Shillingford). In October 2018, the Camden New Journal published an open letter calling for the name of the Tricycle Theatre to be reinstated, signed by Sally Greengross, Michael Codron, Lord Cashman, Ken Livingstone, Clive Hirschhorn, Martin Yates, Anita Dobson, Christopher Biggins, Bradley Walsh, Mark Thomas, Lesley Joseph, Les Dennis, Bobby Crush, Lorraine Chase, Mark Curry, Anne Reid, Joe Pasquale, Sandra Dickinson, Linda Hayden, Ray Cooney, Christina Lamb, Robin Soans, Paul Freeman, Joan Ann Maynard and Clarke Peters.[22]

According to trustees, over 50% of audience members attending the 2018 reopening season were visiting the theatre for the first time.[23]

Artistic directors

In 1984 co-founder Ken Chubb turned leadership over to new artistic director Nicolas Kent, who had previously brought a successful production of Playboy of the West Indies by Mustapha Matura to the theatre with the Oxford Playhouse Company. Ken Chubb and Shirley Barrie returned shortly thereafter to their native Canada, where they have continued working in theatre and education.[4][5][6]

In 2012 the role of artistic director was taken over by Indhu Rubasingham,[24] who had previously worked as a guest director at the theatre working on shows such as Starstruck by Roy Williams (1998), Fabulation by Lynn Nottage (2006), The Great Game (with Nicolas Kent in 2009) and Detaining Justice by Bola Agbaje (2009).

Rubasingham will step down in December 2023, to be replaced by Amit Sharma.[3]


Tricycle Theatre productions 1980s–1990s

Among the highpoints of the 1980s and early 1990s were productions of Return to the Forbidden Planet, Just So (a musical based on the Rudyard Kipling children's stories),[4][5][6] the UK premiere of Alice Childress's Trouble in Mind[25] and productions by The Black Theatre Co-operative, Carib Theatre, Druid, Field Day, Foco Novo, Market Theatre of Johannesburg, National Theatre of Brent, Paines Plough, Shared Experience, Talawa Theatre Company.[4][5][6]

"Tribunal plays"

From 1994, during the tenure of Nicolas Kent as artistic director, the theatre established a reputation for its distinctive "tribunal plays" based on verbatim reconstructions of public inquiries.

In 1994 the theatre produced Half the Picture by Richard Norton-Taylor and John McGrath (a dramatisation of the Scott Arms to Iraq Inquiry), which was the first play ever to be performed in the Houses of Parliament. This was the first of a series of plays that have subsequently become known as the Tricycle Tribunal Plays. The next, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1946 War Crimes Tribunal, was Nuremberg, which was followed by Srebrenica – the UN Rule 61 Hearings, which later transferred to the National Theatre and the Belfast Festival at Queen's.

In 1999, the theatre's reconstruction of The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry – The Colour of Justice received critical and public acclaim, The Guardian calling it "the most vital piece of theatre on the London stage".[26] It went on to play for two weeks at Theatre Royal, Stratford East and transferred to the Victoria Palace in the West End. It completed a national tour in 1999 which included the Belfast Festival and the National Theatre.

In 2003 Justifying War – Scenes from the Hutton Inquiry opened at the theatre.[27]

In 2004 the theatre produced Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom written by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo from spoken evidence, which transferred to the New Ambassadors Theatre in the West End[28] and the Culture Project in New York (where Archbishop Desmond Tutu appeared in the production). In 2006 the theatre presented a performance of the play at the Houses of Parliament and also on Washington's Capitol Hill. It has since been performed around the world. Through the "Guantanamo Reading Project" there have been 25 community productions of readings of the play in the United States.

Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry opened in 2005 and later transferred to Belfast, Derry and to the Abbey Theatre for the Dublin Theatre Festival. In 2006 the theatre was awarded an Evening Standard Special Drama Award for "pioneering political work", and a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement[29] for Bloody Sunday.

In 2007 Called to Account – the indictment of Tony Blair for the crime of aggression against Iraq – a hearing was staged at the Tricycle with evidence from American political lobbyist Richard Perle, the Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations Security Council in 2003, Juan Gabriel Valdes, and ex-Cabinet Minister Clare Short.[30]

In 2010 Nicolas Kent, Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle Theatre were awarded a Human Rights Award from Liberty for "their proud record of highlighting some of the most important human rights issues of the day". The award named several of the tribunal plays.[31]

Most of these plays have been broadcast by the BBC on radio or television,[32] and have together reached audiences of over 30 million people worldwide.[citation needed]

Productions 2006–2012

Productions 2012–2020

Productions between 2012 and 2020 included:

Productions 2021-present

Following closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiln Theatre reopened in May 2021.

2014 Jewish Film Festival funding

In August 2014, the theatre informed the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) that it could not host the festival in 2014 (as it had done for the previous eight years) if the festival accepted a £1400 grant from the Israeli Embassy in London, as the theatre did not think that the festival should accept funding from any party to the then ongoing conflict in Gaza.[75][76] The theatre offered to make up the loss itself but the festival's chief executive director Stephen Margolis dismissed this offer as a "publicity stunt", saying that artistic director Indhu Rubasingham had also demanded to scrutinise the list of films to be shown.[77] The decision led to accusations of anti-semitism and The Jewish Chronicle described the decision as "open racism".[78] Rubasingham drew attention to her own and the theatre's record, adding: "I am not anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli".[79]

Nick Cohen, writing in The Spectator, accused the Tricycle of inconsistency, as other groups' or events' funding had not, he claimed, previously been examined in this way. Cohen also pointed out that the theatre accepted Arts Council funding during times that the UK was actively involved in military conflicts.[80] In an editorial, The Guardian said that the theatre had made "a bad error of judgment".[81] Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was reported as saying that the theatre had been "misguided" in demanding the festival drop its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy.[82]

Theatre directors Nicholas Hytner and Richard Eyre both supported the Tricycle's stance and deplored those who had misrepresented that position.[83] Hytner also said "Rubasingham and the Tricycle board could not have made clearer their commitment to Jewish culture ... It is entirely understandable that they felt obliged to insist that no government agency should sponsor the festival. The Tricycle ... has a clear responsibility to make no statement about the dispute that is behind the current conflict. It greatly saddens me that the UKJFF have unwisely politicised a celebration of Jewish culture".[75]

However, in a joint statement on 15 August, the UKJFF and Tricycle Theatre said: "Some weeks ago the UKJFF fell out, very publicly, with the Tricycle over a condition imposed by the Tricycle regarding funding. This provoked considerable public upset. Both organisations have come together to end that. Following lengthy discussions between the Tricycle and UKJFF, the Tricycle has now withdrawn its objection and invited back the UK Jewish Film Festival on the same terms as in previous years with no restrictions on funding from the Embassy of Israel in London." The 2014 festival did not take place at the theatre, but it was suggested that the Tricycle might hold some UKJFF-related events later in the year.[84][85][86][87]

In May 2015 the Tricycle Theatre's chair, Jonathan Levy, issued an apology in a piece published in The Jewish Chronicle, saying that the theatre had taken the wrong decision when it had asked UKJFF to return to the Israeli Embassy the £1400 funding it had received and that it was now seeking ways to rebuild mutual trust with the Jewish community.[88]



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51°32′36″N 0°12′00″W / 51.5433°N 0.2000°W / 51.5433; -0.2000