Hampstead Theatre holds sixtieth birthday fundraising party

Hampstead Theatre 60th birthday

Hampstead Theatre 60th birthday - Credit: Archant

More than six decades after the announcement of a new ‘repertory for Hampstead’ was made on the Ham&High front page, stars including Alison Steadman take part in a fundraising gala to raise money for the theatre’s work with young people

The Hampstead Theatre opened on Eton Avenue in 2003 and was previously in a prefab in Swiss Cottage

The Hampstead Theatre opened on Eton Avenue in 2003 and was previously in a prefab in Swiss Cottage and the Moreland Hall in Holly Bush Vale - Credit: Archant

The announcement of a "repertory for Hampstead" was made on the front pages of the Ham&High in March 1959.

Actor-producer James Roose-Evans told the paper he would start a "professional rep company to present community theatre and attract a loyal audience of enthusiasts."

And he promised to pay actors and staff.."though not very much as we shall not have much," adding: "the idea is not to make money but to present imaginative theatre, new plays, unusual readings and talks."

The 31-year-old roped in high profile patrons including Dame Peggy Ashcroft and ran the theatre from his home in Perrin's Court.

He rented the Moreland Hall in Hollybush Vale for performances, held rehearsals above the Three Horseshoes (now The Horseshoe) in Hampstead High Street and set up a script department at High Hill Bookshop nearby.

He raised the money for his first productions by rattling a tin outside the Everyman and signing up 250 members at a "guinea a head".

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The first production of Saunders Lewis' The King's Daughter starring Sian Phillips opened on September 24, and over the following decades the theatre grew an enviable reputation for staging groundbreaking work by Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh Michael Frayn and David Hare - first in a prefab at Swiss Cottage and since 2003 in a purpose built theatre on Eton Avenue.

On January 23, the theatre holds a fundraising birthday party to celebrate "60 years of bold, ambitious theatre." Hosted by Zeinab Badawi a champagne reception is followed by a show celebrating the theatre's rich history. Highgate-based Gavin and Stacey actor Alison Steadman will reprise her role as Beverley in Abigail's Party which premiered at Hampstead Theatre in 1977, reading from some scenes. There will be a live auction and songs from the theatre's recent hit Caroline or Change.

The £150 a head tickets include a post-show buffet and all funds raised will support the theatre's work with young people and its scheme to offer £10 tickets to under 30s.

Roxana Silbert, the theatre's latest artistic director who took over last year said: "This is a delightful opportunity to celebrate Hampstead Theatre's progress and achievements over the last six decades. The event also gives us a great opportunity to raise funds for the next generation of artists and audiences, and ensure the future of this wonderful theatre."

Further details from hampsteadtheatre.com