Roundhouse

Definition

Theater

  • A performing arts venue in Camden, north London, that has staged manyground-breaking productions over four decades. The building, an outstanding example of Victorian industrial architecture, was constructed in 1846 as a repair shed for railway engines; it then served (1869 - 1919) as a bonded warehouse for Gilbey's gin before falling into disuse. In 1964 the lease was taken on by Arnold Wesker's Centre 42, an arts organization with trade-union links and a mission to bring culture to working-class audiences. Under Wesker's aegis, the Roundhouse was converted into a theater and licensed in 1968, the first production being Peter Brook's experimental Themes on The Tempest. Other landmarks included a famous Hamlet (1969) with Nicol Williamson and Kenneth Tynan's nude revue Oh, Calcutta! (1970), which provoked a police raid. The Roundhouse also established itself as a leading venue for live rock music. Although Wesker wound up Centre 42 in 1971, theater productions continued with such ambitious works as Ariane Mnouchkine's epic 1789 (1972) and Howard Brenton's Epsom Downs (1977). From the late 1970s the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, presented several seasons of drama, with highlights that included Vanessa Redgrave in Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea (1979). Financial pressures continued to mount, however, and in 1983 the Roundhouse closed its doors: it would remain empty until the mid 1990s, when music and dance events returned on a sporadic basis. Finally, in 1998, the Roundhouse Trust was created with the aim of developing the building into a major performing arts centre, with a special emphasis on the training of young people. After three years and £30 million of redevelopment work, the Roundhouse reopened in June 2006 with the Argentinian dance spectacular Fuerzabruta. It now incorporates a 3300-seat main space, the 140-seat Studio 42, and a new complex of rehearsal rooms, recording studios, and video-editing facilities.
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