Gate Theatre

Definition

Theater

  • (1) A theater company formed by Hilton Edwards and MichéalMacLiammóir in Dublin in 1928. The company played at the PeacockTheatre (a smaller auditorium in the Abbey Theatre) beforemoving to its own venue in the Rotunda Buildings in 1930.

    In 1931 the Sixth Earl of Longford (Edward Arthur Henry Pakenham;1902 - 61), an Irish playwright and director, became associatedwith the Gate and in 1936 he formed Longford Productions to stage classicdramas there. MacLiammóir performed in such Shakespearean rolesas Hamlet, Romeo, and Othello. The Gate actively encouraged Irishplaywrights while also producing modern plays from Britain, Europe,and America. After World War II, Lady Longford ran the theater whosefortunes declined through the 1950s and 1960s; it was awarded a staterenovation subsidy in 1969. After the death of MacLiammóirin 1978, it was taken over by new management. In recent decades theGate has been particularly associated with the plays of Brian Friel,a retrospective of whose work it presented in 2005. Other recent productionsinclude a stripped-down version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (2007).

    (2) A small club theater in central London founded by Peter Godfrey(1899 - 1971), a variety performer and Shakespearean actor. It openedin 1925 on the top floor of a converted warehouse in Floral Street, CoventGarden. Finding himself unable to secure a licence for the venue, Godfreymade the Gate into a private club giving performances of noncommercial andforeign dramas.

    In its first nine years Godfrey produced over 350 plays, gainingan international reputation as the principal exponent of expressionismin Britain. His productions employed stylized acting before blackdrapes, with unusual lighting effects.

    The Gate opened with Bernice by Susan Glaspell andhad its first success the following year with From Morn to Midnightby the German expressionist playwright Georg Kaiser. In 1927 it movedto Villiers Street near Charing Cross, where it occupied part of theold Hungerford Music Hall (later home to the Players' Theatre).Godfrey also used his club to stage such banned plays as Eugene O'Neill'sDesire Under the Elms, presented in 1931 with Eric Portmanplaying Ebon Cabot and Flora Robson as Abbie Putnam.

    The subsequent decline in its fortunes was halted when NormanMarshall (1901 - 80) took over the management in 1934; he presentedToller's Miracle in America that same year. Marshall subsequentlyproduced several banned works, including Laurence Housman's VictoriaRegina (1935), Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour(1936), and Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (1939). Marshall, whoalso revived the annual Gate revue, managed the venue until 1940.In 1941 the theater was badly damaged by bombing and was not reopened.

    (3) A tiny theater in Notting Hill, west London, that has acquired aninternational reputation with its ambitious and challenging productions. TheGate, which normally seats about 70 people, was established in a room abovethe Prince Albert pub by its first director, Lou Stein, in 1979. Despitesevere physical and financial restraints, the venue quickly made its mark asthe only London theater to concentrate on international work (with a specialfocus on Eastern Europe). In the mid 1980s Stein's successor, Giles Croft,introduced the themed seasons that have continued to be a feature of theGate's activity. Subsequent directors have included the young StephenDaldry (1989 - 92), Mick Gordon (1998 - 2000), and Thea Sharrock(2004 - 2006). Some particularly notable productions include JimAllen's controversial Perdition (1998), which had been cancelled by theRoyal Court, Femin Cabal's Tejas Verdes (2005), an account of torture and repression in Pinochet's Chile, and a gripping adaptation of Tolstoy'sThe Kreutzer Sonata (2009). Regular payment of actors and stage crewwas not introduced until 2003, when a special agreement with Equity was concluded;on certain nights, a limited number of 'pay what you can' tickets are stillavailable to playgoers.

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