What's in a name? Why did the Tricycle become Kiln Theatre?

Ben Hewis considers the implications of the Kilburn theatre’s name change

Architects rendering of the new Tricycle Theatre auditorium
Architects rendering of the new Kiln Theatre auditorium
(© Chapman Waterworth)

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet." Like Juliet's insistence on the irrelevance of Romeo's patronymic, it could be argued that the Kiln Theatre's new season would be just as exciting without the added rebrand from its former moniker, the Tricycle.

After all, when was the last time you booked to see a show based on the name of the building it was being housed in? But sometimes a name is more than just a label. Sometimes a name can signal the intentions and purpose of the thing which bears it, clearly stating to all who enter what they can expect in return for their patronage.

At a press launch on Monday, artistic director Indhu Rubasingham explained that while the new name "absolutely locates the theatre in Kilburn", there's more than just clever wordplay involved. It's about signalling their intention too. "A kiln is a space of transformation, heat, energy and forging," Rubasingham proposed.

Whether returning or new – of which there will be many thanks to the brilliantly affordable pricing structure announced alongside the new season – visitors to the theatre won't just be stepping into a newly redeveloped theatre building, but a community hub with a focussed commitment to providing important, challenging and entertaining work made first and foremost for its local area – something the Tricycle was brilliant at already, but now with an even greater determination.

While there's something to be said about the loss of a brand and reputation that has been built up over decades – it's understandable that regulars to the theatre will miss the name that adorned the venue for over 30 years – with the passing of time, most will not know the history (the theatre was once the home of the Wakefield Tricycle touring company), and so the name becomes redundant, doing nothing to inform anyone who might want to visit.

The rebrand means those attending a performance in Kiln's new, bigger auditorium, sipping coffee in its new bar, or meeting friends in its new foyer, are getting more than just pretty new spaces from the £5.5million redevelopment, they're getting something to belong to, to own and call theirs. And in these increasingly divided times we find ourselves in, that's something all theatres should be striving for.