If you thought the only place to find great theatre in London is the West End, then think again. The off-West End scene is thriving: you can find theatres tucked away at the back of pubs, perched above a shop, packed into shipping containers and even built around a butchery.
These small, intimate venues offer a unique opportunity to discover the world of independent theatre… if you know where to look.
Located in between Borough and Elephant & Castle tube stations, Southwark Playhouse is a must-visit for anyone interested in the arts. High-quality new takes on the classics, up-and-coming playwrights and the odd award-winning musical are on the cards here, all just a stone’s throw away from Elephant Park.
It boasts a vibrant bar and cafe where you can get a glass of wine before a show, or simply grab a beer with friends to soak up the bustling atmosphere. The theatre’s bar and overall good vibes have even been recognised by The Offies (The Off West End Theatre Awards); the theatre recently took home the prizes for ‘Best Theatre Bar’ and ‘Most Welcoming Theatre’!
Above all, Southwark Playhouse aims to support emerging artists, so prepare to see performances by tomorrow’s famous names. The fringe theatre is renowned for its community projects designed with future generations in mind. Through its workshops and events, Southwark Playhouse aims to bring together the local community and offer opportunities for people of all ages to engage in Southwark’s rich and diverse culture through the arts.
Take the Playhouse’s youth-led theatre company, Young Company, for example. YoCo, as it’s known, puts on a series of free weekly workshops, which allow Southwark’s young people to develop their performance skills. There are also programmes for the over 25s and over 65s. The theatre also plays an active role in the local primary school community, offering free productions and curriculum support, encouraging the importance of drama in education and personal development.
Last year, Southwark Playhouse won a share of the Elephant and Castle Community Fund, which is facilitating two years of inspiring community work. The fund was set up in 2012 to build on the strengths of the local residents, their efforts in helping others and the cultural diversity of the area.
Thanks to the fund, Southwark Playhouse is delivering a series of programmes for the over 18s, run by leading figures from every arts discipline. Attendees learn the basics – and some not-so-basics – of performing arts. Next year, the fund will help finance a professionally written and directed community production, starring a cast of residents.
To learn more about theatre in and around Elephant Park, take a look here: