Cash Crisis Forces Bridewell to Close in JanuaryDate: 7 October 2004
The Bridewell Theatre (pictured) will close its doors in January 2005, after nearly 11 years as London’s new musical ‘laboratory’.
After losing its rent exemption in summer 2003 (See News, 12 May 2003), the City-based venue has been financially precarious. This past March, when celebrating its tenth anniversary, it staved off imminent closure by raising £110,000 -- £60,000 of it core public funding from the Corporation of London and Arts Council England, which put in £30,000 apiece (See News, 9 Mar 2004).
However, that money was a one-off and theatre has now been told by the Arts Council that it will not receive any additional funding to keep the building open. The Bridewell Company will continue to operate as an independent entity producing new work, for which it receives a separate development grant of £32,500 per annum (covering 2004, 2005 and 2006).
Bridewell artistic director Carol Metcalfe told Whatsonstage.com: “The thing that matters enormously to me is that we’ve hung on to the development grant. It feels terrible to see the theatre close, but what I really care about is developing musical theatre as a genre.”
Osnat Schmool’s Drive Ride Walk - the first new musical produced by the Bridewell Company with the development grant money – is scheduled for a spring 2005 premiere, possibly even back at the Bridewell itself, although that, and the future of the performance space itself is, says Metcalfe “for our landlords to decide”.
Since its foundation in 1994 until earlier this year, the Bridewell existed rent-free in its space, once a Victorian indoor swimming pool, based in the charitable St Bride Institute off Fleet Street in the City. A change of lease in 2003 meant that the theatre was liable for full rent costs, as well as a service charge of £90,000 per annum.
In October 2003, as a result of the Bridewell’s cash crisis, a team from the theatre gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary Select Committee, which held an Inquiry into the future development of musical theatre in the UK. Unlike other performing arts, musical theatre has traditionally received minimal public subsidy.
Over the past decade, the Bridewell has established itself as one of the capital's most important spaces for the development of new musicals, with a particular emphasis on premiering shows of up-and-coming American writers and composers such as Jason Robert Brown, Adam Guettel and Michael John LaChiusa as well as rediscovering the work of Stephen Sondheim and others (See Features, 23 Jul 2001).
- by Terri Paddock