Fringe theatre Above the Stag confirmed this week that not only was the venue in Victoria to close its doors, but the building in which it was housed is to be demolished to make way for a new commercial development. This comes not long after the Drill Hall left its home on Store Street after 30 years, due to funding issues; the Greenwich Playhouse has also, notoriously, been given the boot by its landlord, Beds and Bars, after a residency of 20 years.
Three years ago, Above the Stag’s Artistic Director Peter Bull turned the shabby function room of a slightly dingy, but none the less much loved LGBT venue, into fringe theatre. Notable past productions include Silence! The Musical, a song and dance parody of The Silence of the Lambs which is currently running off-Broadway, bawdy Victorian rent-boy musical Cleveland Street, and a revue series based on short lived End West shows, Blink!.
It’s always sad to see a venue close on the fringe, not just because there’s one less space in which to showcase new work, but also because these smaller venues are part of a community, be it through outreach work, or simply as a place where local people can gather. What makes these cases particularly galling is that the reasons for the closures are at best cynical in the case of the Above the Stage, at worst avaricious as with Greenwich Playhouse’s situation.
Fortunately the spirit of London’s fringe theatres is resilient. The Drill Hall is now operating as Outhouse London, while Greenwich Playhouse is being rehoused by the Royal Borough of Greenwich; Above the Stag is on the look-out for new locations and funding to continue its work. “We are committed to continuing Above The Stag’s success, and we therefore urgently need a new home,” says Bull. “We are looking for donations to our Above the Stag ‘Moving On Fund’ to help us relocate and cover the costs of interim storage. We have built something of a family at Above the Stag, and that includes our enthusiastic audience. What we have achieved over the past three years is too valuable to lose.”
There will be a farewell party at Above the Stag on 8th March with free drink and songs from previous productions. For further details, visit the venue’s website.