Clive Rowe performs panto at Hackney Empire

Theatre

THE performing arts in Hackney have a vibrant history dating back to the foundation of UK theatre itself. Built in 1577, England's second public playhouse was on Curtain Road in Shoreditch, where William Shakespeare appeared on stage and Ben Johnson plays were performed.

Since then, other pioneering theatres have been established in the borough, including the Hackney Empire, which in 1901 was a technological wonder of its time with electric lights, central heating and in-built projection box.

With an ever-expanding array of fringe, community and mainstream venues, present-day Hackney is still at the forefront of theatre innovation. From sponsoring up and coming playwrights at The Yard, to developing sustainable production techniques at Dalston’s Arcola, theatre continues to be a key part of the borough’s creative life.

Arcola Theatre

THIS Dalston-based studio theatre has been a pioneering force of both drama and sustainable technology since it was founded in 2000, and has developed a reputation for creative excellence and social conscience. The Arcola has staged work by some of the world's most acclaimed actors, writers and directors, including productions by William Gaskill, Ariel Dorfman and Frank McGuinness.

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Arcola Theatre

Courtyard Theatre

THE former Hoxton Library was given a new lease of artistic life when it became home to fringe production company Courtyard Theatre in 2007. In the heart of Hoxton’s thriving artistic scene and fittingly close to Curtain Road, site of the first purpose-built playhouses in England – the 1576 ‘Theatre’ and 1577 ‘Curtain’ – this heritage-listed building now houses two theatre spaces, a rehearsal room, and bar.

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Courtyard Theatre

Graeae Theatre

A UNIQUE and progressive theatre project that places disabled artists centre-stage, Graeae is a force for change in the dramatic arts. The company was established in 1980, by Nabil Shaban and Richard Tomlinson, with the vision of dispelling prejudice and myth about people with disabilities through theatre, workshops and training.

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Graeae Theatre

Hackney Empire

HACKNEY Empire is the borough’s oldest theatre and an iconic, local landmark. Built in 1901, by internationally-acclaimed architect Frank Matcham, it attracted some of the globe’s most renowned performers in its first 50 years of life: from Charlie Chaplin to Louis Armstrong.

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Hackney Empire

Hackney Shed

HACKNEY Shed is a theatre company for young people, aged seven to 16, with a wide range of artistic abilities. The Shed team use theatre as a tool to bring children and young people together in an informal, fun and exciting setting – where they can reach their potential no matter what their ability or background.

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Hackney Shed

Hoxton Hall

ONE of East London’s longest-running community arts initiatives, Hoxton Hall has a colourful history, which is intertwined with the life of the borough. It was built in 1863, by architect James Mortimer 'with the specific object of affording the humbler classes an entertainment that shall combine instruction with amusement’.

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Hoxton Hall

Rosemary Branch Theatre

IN contrast to its small size, the Rosemary Branch Theatre has a big history and reputation, starting life as a Victorian music hall that reportedly hosted such names as Marie Lloyd, and even Charlie Chaplin. In 1992, the popular pub theatre, which is nestled on the border between Hackney and Islington, was taken over by the current artistic directors Cecilia Darker and Cleo Sylvestre, who refurbished the 67-seat venue.

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Rosemary Branch Theatre

Yard Theatre

THE borough’s newest fringe theatre venue, The Yard opened in 2011 in the atmospheric industrial surrounds of Hackney Wick. The amphitheatre-style venue is a converted warehouse that sits across the canal from the Olympic Stadium and was made with recycled materials.

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Yard Theatre

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