VENUE & BUILDING HISTORY
One unusual factor regarding our venue, that unlike most London fringe venues which are connected behind, above or below a pub or bar where the general public have access and may not want to see a production. We are a fully dedicated theatre with a bar attached for use solely for our theatre goers, so no noise from the bar area or TV football or quiz nights noise to compete with the theatre productions.
The large 4 storey building dates back to 1870 with us taking up the basement area and was built like many at the time as a home for a wealthy family and sub divided in the 1960's when our part of the building became a doctors surgery and waiting room. In fact the doctor’s receptionist from that time came to our opening show.
In the 1970's it became a nightclub along with the ground floor level and operated legally and sometimes illegally as an after hours drinking den until the well documented 'New Cross Fire' in the adjoining building on Sunday 18th January 1981,where many young innocent lives were lost meant lots of attention was put on the area and put an end to such activities in this building. When visiting our theatre please take a moment to stop outside and read the plaque on the adjoining wall which is the only reminder of the tragedy as that building has now been rebuilt using the same bricks to match our building.
Our part of the building reopened a few years later in the 1980’s and became a well known local music venue called ‘Marlowe’s’ named after the famous writer Christopher Marlow who was stabbed in a bar brawl nearby in Deptford. A large neon ‘Marlowe’s’ sign became a local landmark and the nightclub remained for many years. When it closed in the 1990’s, The National Theatre requested the sign, but was damaged when removed from the wall while being shipped to them. Although we have fully refurbished the bar area, we have kept the stunning glass bar top where you can clearly still see the ‘Marlowe’ signs etched into the glass.
We are also very near the site of the New Cross Empire, one of the UK's foremost venues in the inter war years and now sadly gone.
In the late 1990’s the venue closed and the whole building came up for auction and was bought and turned into a fabric studio called ATOM, who are now a very established brand in the fashion industry and are still based in the building on the ground floor. Residential units are above and the basement area was first used as storage before being taken over by ARC Sounds and for the previous 10 years before us, used as a successful sound recording studio. In 2012 it was taken over by The London Comedy Course after Arc sounds moved to larger premises and the theatre was built.
The opening production was the play ‘Joy Division’ about Nazi sex slaves followed by a three week sell out run of ‘The Wood Demon’ performed in Russian. It was noted during this performance that some of the seats had bad sight lines to the stage, so over a period of two days between that production closing and another opening, It was completely rebuilt the seating area making it racked with all our original new seats gone after three weeks and replaced with new seating and proper changing room.
Between 2012 and 2018 there were 482 productions staged at the theatre from many theatre companies.
In late 2018 it was taken over by The Ale Bar who decided to keep the theatre space and renamed it 'The ALE BAR Theatre - New Cross' and it became part of The Ale Bar. The bar area was extended and even a model railway installed. It also now is the home to a very active local amatuer dramatic group called 'The South London Players' who put on 12 productions per year.