Mermaid Theatre

Definition

Theater

  • A riverside theater in Blackfriars, London, built by the actorBernard Miles (1907 - 91) and his wife, Josephine. The first MermaidTheatre was a former schoolroom in the Miles's back garden in St John'sWood. This opened as a private venue in 1951. A year later the companymoved to the City for a 13-week season on the piazza of the RoyalExchange; a replica Elizabethan stage was constructed on the samesite in 1953.

    In 1959 the theater moved again, this time to a permanenthome in a war-damaged warehouse at Puddledock. For the opening, the4-year-old daughter of the actor Jack Hawkins was rowed up the Thamesdressed as a mermaid. The first production was Lock Up Your Daughters,Miles's own musical adaptation of Fielding's Rape upon Rape.The Mermaid subsequently concentrated on Jacobean and Elizabethanrevivals; revues and pantomime have also featured strongly.

    The Mermaid closed for modernization in 1979 and reopenedtwo years later as part of a controversial office-block complex. Itnow contains the Molecule Club studio theater for schoolchildren,which brings science to life on the stage.

    When a series of failures plunged the Mermaid into financialdifficulties in the mid 1980s, it was bought by the entrepreneur AbdulShamji, who was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in 1989 for financialimproprieties. In 1993 a one-man show about Muhammad Ali staged byShamji's son ran up further large losses. The Mermaid closed in 1997and was the subject of a demolition order in 2002. However, this wasblocked by Ken Livingstone, the then Mayor of London, and the buildingis now being used as a conference centre.

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