Tucked away below a narrow street in Fitzrovia is a place that for nearly two decades was home to a radical theatre company. Now that hidden landmark on the neighbourhood’s artistic heritage trail will open again for just one week.
The Soho Poly theatre — forerunner of today’s Soho Theatre on Dean Street — operated out of a tiny basement room on Riding House Street belonging to the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster) from 1972 to 1990.
“Many of the country’s best known writers, actors, designers and directors worked here during this time,” say Guy Osborn and Matt Morrison of the University of Westminster.
The space is now being revived for a series of lunchtime performances and an exhibition of the venue’s history this month as part of a festival celebrating the humanities and how it can inspire and enrich our everyday lives.
“This secret space quickly became the centre piece of our Being Human project, and, for the whole week beginning 20 November, visitors will be able to come and visit London’s most important ‘lost’ theatre.
“Our research also uncovered other inspiring stories of creative endeavour — including a series of public lectures from 1917 given by Louie Bagley, then Head of the School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art, on ‘Poets and Poetry of Today’, say Osborn and Morrison.
The events are free and will run every lunchtime for five days hosted by the University’s School of Law.
Visitors will be introduced to the hidden space, and an exhibition of rare memorabilia by original artistic director Fred Proud. They will then have an opportunity to experience a newly-commissioned piece of digital lunchtime theatre from award-winning collective Hannah Bruce and Company (Museum and Heritage Awards nominees, 2017). And there will be poetry readings, curated by spoken-word artist Mike Garry, artist in residence at Westminster Law School.
“It offers an opportunity to experience an exciting and various programme of events including a newly commissioned piece of digital theatre, live poetry readings, and an exhibition of rare Nobby Clark photographs. And all of this to be enjoyed in the specially re-opened Soho Poly basement itself,” say Osborn and Morrison.
Found theatre and poetry: disrupting the everyday, 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm, Monday 20 to Friday 24 November 2017, University of Westminster, 4-12 Little Titchfield Street, London W1W 7BY. Free.