Edward Hall’s fist six months a success at Hampstead Theatre

Famous theatre’s fortunes turned around as Mike Leigh play opens

RECORD-BREAKING plays, celebrity directors and surprise hits have put Hampstead Theatre firmly back on the map – and new boy Edward Hall is delighted.

Despite a �17million, 325 seat renovation in 2003 the theatre has been struggling at the box office – with only 61 per cent of seats sold in 2007/8.

But fortunes seem to have been turning around with audience numbers increasing year on year since then.

The theatre achieved 65 per cent capacity in 2008/9 and 70 per cent in 2009/10, before Mr Hall took over programming. Since he took over six months ago, the seat occupancy rate has jumped to 72.5 per cent.

This means more than 40,000 people will have visited Hampstead Theatre in this period – and Mr Hall is thrilled.

“I have just come along to create and commission interesting, challenging work,” he told the Ham&High, “and I hoped everyone would come along with me for the journey.

Most Read

“We now have two theatres and we know that a huge part of the audience for the downstairs plays have been visiting the theatre for the very first time, which is really exciting and shows that it has quite a broad appeal.

“There is also luck involved and an incredible amount of hard work from everyone at the theatre – but one of the most important things we have is a supportive local audience of people who have been coming to the theatre for years and continue to come through the doors along with other people from the Hampstead area who had maybe stopped coming and are giving it a chance again.’’

It is not just local people who are seeing the theatre through new eyes. Nina Raine’s sell out Tiger Country, based on the A&E department of a busy London hospital, set a series of new records for a play.

“We had Tiger Country breaking all the theatre’s records and Ecstasy has now broken all those new records, straight away,” he said.

Mike Leigh’s play will be the theatre’s biggest selling show with every night a sell-out. It could become the most successful play in the theatre’s history both in terms of tickets sold and cash taken.

Mr Hall believes it is a legacy everyone in the area can be proud of.

He said: “At this time of cuts to the public sector and arts it is huge that there is a successful theatre at Hampstead for the borough of Camden.”