After touring the Hackney Empire with Open House London, I moved on to the Arcola Theatre in Dalston. This theatre couldn’t be more different to the Frank Matcham-designed Empire – it’s an example of an old building repurposed and redesigned to create a viable theatre space.
The Arcola was founded by Mehmet Ergen and Leyla Nazli in 2000 in a disused textile factory in Arcola Street. In 2010-11 the theatre moved to the Colourworks, a Victorian paint factory, in Ashwin Street, where it has been ever since. The theatre has a foyer, a bar, and four studio spaces (though only Studios 1 and 2 are habitually used for productions). In addition, the theatre has set itself the goal of becoming the first carbon neutral theatre in the UK, with Arcola Energy forming a distinct company in 2010, the better to achieve this aim.
I love the Arcola – the standard of productions is extremely high and they put on a good mix of classics and new plays. They also have a brilliant Passport scheme: you pay £50 and get an actual mini passport which gives you access to five shows. This works out at only a tenner each – bargain!