Croydon's Warehouse Theatre has extended by three weeks the sell-out run of its Christmas show - Episode IV - The Flight of the Phoenix, the latest instalment in the theatre's highly popular Dick Barton musical detective series - after which the 100-seat venue will close its doors for good, after 25 years. The final performance of the final production takes place on 23 February 2003.

Founded in 1977, the Warehouse Theatre is housed in a converted Victorian warehouse dating from 1882. It previously faced closure in 1984 when Arts Council funding was withdrawn, but the local Croydon Council came to the rescue to replace the grant.

Following refurbishment, in 1985 the theatre re-opened under the directorship of Ted Craig with a concentration on new writing. In addition to regular in-house productions of new works, it holds an annual International Playwriting Festival, with finalists over the years hailing from as far afield as America, Trinidad, Australia and Bulgaria.

Commenting on the imminent closure, Craig said: "We are being forced to vacate the building as it is proving impossible to maintain without a lot of money spent on it - and that kind of money is just not available. Also the site is up for development."

However, Craig emphasises that the Warehouse Company is not closing and will continue to mount productions in and around Croydon as well as running the writing festival, workshops, youth schemes and other community outreach programmes. They will also be seeking a new home.

Episode IV - The Flight of the Phoenix premiered at the Warehouse on 10 December 2002 (previews from 6 December). The star of the BBC's first daily radio serial, private investigator and sometime special agent, Dick Barton appeared in 711 episodes between 1946 and 1951. It was from this original that the Warehouse drew inspiration for its musical series, with its first stage take on the character appearing in 1998. Since then, episodes one, two and three have appeared in Croydon and around the country.

The Flight of the Phoenix has book, music and lyrics by Duncan Wisbey and Stefan Bednarczyk with Warehouse artistic director Ted Craig, who also directs the latest episode. It's designed by Ellen Cairns with lighting by James Whiteside. The cast features Adam Morris as Dick Barton along with Darrell Brockis, William Oxborrow, Kit Benjamin, Stephen Aintree and Louise Doherty.

- by Terri Paddock