Not the end for New End

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY JOHN NATHAN

LON­DON’S MOST Jewish the­atri­cal venue is set to close — and be­come a synagogue.

Artis­tic di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive Brian Daniels, who has been run­ning the New End Theatre for 14 years, has fi­nally de­cided to give up the battle against the spi­ralling main­te­nance costs of a build­ing that was orig­i­nally a hos­pi­tal morgue be­fore it was con­verted into a theatre 37 years ago.

Af­ter the cur­rent run of the play Where’s Your Mama Gone — which Mr Daniels wrote — ends in late Au­gust, work will be­gin on con­vert­ing the New End into a Jewish arts cen­tre and synagogue for Hamp­stead’s The Vil­lage Shul.

The good news for the theatre’s loyal Jewish fol­low­ing is that ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way for the theatre to move to new premises.

If all goes well, its new venue will be lo­cated in the cen­tre of Hamp­stead. The new New End should ac­com­mo­date around 100 the­atre­go­ers, 16 more than the cur­rent build­ing. And it will still be the “go-to” venue for pro­duc­tions of Jewish and Is­raeli in­ter­est.

“The New End has al­ways been the first call­ing for Jewish and Is­raeli theatre, and it does mean there is not go­ing to be such a venue un­til we are re-es­tab­lished in a new home. But we’re go­ing to be more se­lec­tive about what we pro­duce,” said Mr Daniels, hint­ing that it has not al­ways been easy to keep the un­sub­sidised theatre go­ing over the past 14 years.

Dur­ing that pe­riod the venue has some­times been crit­i­cised for stag­ing “van­ity projects” — plays whose pro­duc­tion costs have been met by their au­thor — as a way of pay­ing bills. The re­sult, Mr Daniels ad­mit­ted, has been that there have been some dull stones among oc­ca­sional gems of­fered at the New End.

More pos­i­tively, Mr Daniels listed among his favourite New End shows Steven Berkoff’s Sit and Shiver and Sir Arnold Wesker’s When God Wanted a Son, though he has mixed mem­o­ries about stag­ing the world pre­miere of Bench­mark, star­ring Jerry Hall, in 2002.

“We were sold out for six weeks with ad­vance book­ing,” he re­called. “You couldn’t get a ticket for love nor money — un­til the re­views came out and then you couldn’t give them away.”

So when the theatre closes af­ter Au­gust 28, will there be a clos­ing party mark­ing nearly four decades of open­ing nights in the build­ing?

“I’m not hav­ing a clos­ing party be­cause I don’t think we are clos­ing,” said the per­ma­nently pos­i­tive Mr Daniels. “We’re ac­tu­ally go­ing for­ward.”

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