History of the South London Theatre
The South London Theatre is a Community theatre in West Norwood in the London Borough of Lambeth, England. Founded in October 1967 (as the South London Theatre Centre), it is now a busy theatre venue, presenting over 22 shows annually in two auditoria: the 100 seater proscenium arch Bell Theatre and a smaller seater black box theatre named Prompt Corner, it also has a private basement bar open 364 nights a year which is host to regular social events.
The plays produced include all genres; Shakespeare, comedy, classics, pantomime, musicals, and modern cutting-edge drama. New writing is particularly encouraged as are aspiring directors. There are plenty of roles behind scenes and help and encouragement is given to new members.
There is a very active youth group (South London Youth Theatre) as well as children's classes. The children have their own showcases and are also encouraged to participate in the main productions.
The Gothic revival style building was originally a fire station, built in 1881. It retains much of that original character, for example, it is the only fire station for horse drawn tenders which still has the look out tower and doors in place. The building should always retain its historic features as the frontage of the building is grade two listed. It had a short history as a fire station as it was built for horse-drawn fire engines and the new motorised appliances were too big for the doors, which could not be extended. The area behind these doors, where the appliances and horses were kept, is now the Bell Theatre stage. Between its life as a fire station and its role now as a theatre, the building was a hall for the local church and an illegal boxing venue.
The design for the conversion to a theatre was by Owen Luder (later to become President of the Royal Institute of British Architects on two occasions and a well-known Dulwich personality). The original design for the building was probably by Richard Pearsall, of the Metropolitan Board of Works, Architect's Department.
Like all old buildings it requires a lot of maintenance and a renovation is planned which should make the building fully accessible and able to accept performances from external theatre companies.
For those interested at simply looking around the building, it does tours for a weekend in September as part of Open House London at Wikipedia, the next will be in September 2010.
The South London Theatre is a member of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain.