Bridewell Theatre (pictured), based off Fleet Street in the City, will reopen later this month – but not as we know it. As previously reported (See News, 24 Nov 2004), due to lack of subsidy and a cessation of rent exemption, the Bridewell Company, which created the performance space on the site of a Victorian indoor swimming pool and dedicated it to developing the musical genre, was forced to wind up operations last month.

Although that resident professional company remains defunct, the venue is now confirmed to reopen as the home for two leading London amateur dramatic organisations - the Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society (SEDOS) and the Tower Theatre Company. Performances will take place in the evening, with the venue rented out for conferences and other events during the day.

SEDOS, a highly-regarded City-based group and the oldest amateur dramatic group in London, celebrates its 100th birthday in 2005. The bulk of its centenary programming will now occur at the Bridewell, starting with The Voysey Inheritance by Harley Granville Barker, running from 22 to 26 February 2005. This will be followed by Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company from 13 to 23 April. In June, the company presents “The Eurosedos Song Contest 2005: the Live Final”.

Previously based in Islington north London for over 70 years, the Tower Theatre Company will make the Bridewell a temporary home for the next 18 months to two years, while it seeks a new permanent base. The Tower is the only full-time non-professional company in London, staging approximatedly 18 productions a year. The Tower’s kicks off its programme at The Bridewell with Tom Jones, The Fantasticks, with music by Harvey Schmidt, from 27 April to 7 May 2005. It’s followed by The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance (from 10 to 14 May) and Shakespeare’s ever popular Romeo and Juliet (15 to 21 May).

Mike Jenkins, chief executive of the charitable St Bride Foundation, which owns the premises, commented on the new collaboration: “As a community charity, we are thrilled to be able to preserve this cultural gem whilst serving the social and educational needs of the local community and will endeavour to continue the good work that has given the Bridewell Theatre its exemplary reputation.”

- by Terri Paddock