Fringe Focus – The King’s Head Theatre

Welcome to another instalment of an occasional feature showcasing and celebrating the most interesting fringe venues I have visited across London. If you would like your theatre represented here, please let me know, and if I haven’t already been to see you, I will make it my mission to do so.

The second of my Fringe Focus features takes me to Islington, a few miles north of the city, and to the King’s Head Theatre, a long-standing space behind a pub on Upper Street. I asked the theatre to answer some questions on this iconic space, which I visited earlier this year to see This Island’s Mine and Southern Belles.

Exterior of the King's Head Pub and Theatre
Exterior of the King’s Head Pub and Theatre

Interview with Germma Orleans-Thompson, Marketing Assistant

The Kings Head Theatre is quite an iconic fringe venue. What would you say was its USP within the London theatre scene?

We give a platform to emerging companies and artists in addition to our new writing festival Playmill which allows them to showcase their work in a London venue. Due to our Equity fringe agreement, everyone at the King’s Head Theatre both on and off stage must be paid a legal wage which we are very proud of and keen to see more theatres sign up to.

The performance space is quite small, but with a lot of possibilities. What has been your favourite show to stage there, and what was special about it?

Southern Belles has been my favourite show at the King’s Head Theatre as I believe it celebrates what we do best; discovering hidden gems from the past and making great LGBT theatre. Tennessee Williams is one of the greatest playwrights of all time, and so much of his work remains unknown.

There are a few theatres based in Islington pubs. What makes yours different, and do you have opportunities for mutual support and collaboration?

Apart from being the first pub theatre in London since Shakespeare’s time [founded in 1970], bringing opera to a more accessible, small scale space is something that we have pioneered. We love our neighbours and would love to work more collaboratively going forward.

You programme a fair amount of LGBTQ theatre, including the current Queer Season. Do you see the King’s Head as an important venue for shows like these?

Yes, the King’s Head Theatre has championed LGBTQIA+ work since early in our history and continue to do. We gave a safe space to shows that did not have anywhere else to go and we have retained that through till now. It’s especially needed now at a time where so many other LGBTQIA+ venues are closing.

What has been your biggest challenge when programming theatre for the space?

We have so many applications from wonderful shows that it’s hard to fit as many of them in as we would like!

What can we expect from the King’s Head for the future?

More fabulous operas, more excellent LGBTQIA+ work and more of the shows that you know and love in a brand new venue!

You don’t receive revenue from the pub in which you are based, but rather rent the space: how can audiences and theatre-lovers support your theatre going forward?

First and foremost; buy a ticket! Ticket sales make up a large part of our revenue and you can never underestimate the power of spreading the word of a brilliant show!

Interior of the King's Head Theatre
Interior of the King’s Head Theatre

My thanks to Germma.

I would like to add that the King’s Head Theatre is currently looking to move to new premises behind the current space, and are seeking additional funding to ensure this happens in 2020. Although I am quite fond of the 110-seat space which currently exists, a new space is Islington Square will be quite exciting, and will boast a larger auditorium and a smaller studio theatre.

Outside the King's Head Pub and Theatre, Upper Street
Outside the King’s Head Pub and Theatre, Upper Street