The King’s Head Theatre stands on a plot of land that has been used as a public house since 1543, though for most of its history it has been known as the King’s Head Tavern (the name itself coming from an old story about Henry VIII supposedly stopping for a pint on his way to see his mistress). Dan Crawford took over the venue in 1970, and founded the King’s Head Theatre in a room that had been used as a boxing ring and pool hall, establishing the first pub theatre in London since Shakespeare’s day. Under his leadership the pub became well-known for ringing up pounds, shillings and pence until 2008, a full thirty-seven years after the rest of the UK had switched to decimal currency. The pub is packed full of other period details, including gas lights, the original bar, old photography, and coal fires that burn continuously throughout the winter. Crawford led the venue for thirty-five years, establishing it as a breeding ground for new talent and great work. The walls of the pub display the multitude of famous faces that began their career here.
In 2010, Olivier Award-winning UpClose Productions became the theatre’s resident company, and Adam Spreadbury-Maher was appointed the venue’s second Artistic Director, working alongside Robin Norton-Hale, who led the company’s opera programme. At the start of 2015 the third chapter of the King’s Head Theatre began as the Theatre celebrates its 45th anniversary. With the departure of OperaUpClose, Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher chose to stay on, refocusing the venue’s artistic policy towards new work and critical theatrical revivals. High-quality and accessible classical music remains a part of the programme, with Charles Court Opera joining the venue as an associate company. This year the King’s Head will present twelve main-stage productions including a brand new production of Sylvia Freedman’s Nobody’s Business as well as a centenary revival of Arthur Miller’s The Man Who Had All the Luck. We certainly aren’t slowing down. The venue’s reputation for nurturing new talent continues, with the pioneering Trainee Director scheme (winner of the Royal Anniversary Trust Award in 1992) still being run by the King’s Head Theatre. Recent graduates have gone on to work at the National Theatre, RSC, Lyric Hammersmith and the Globe, plus many other internationally renowned companies. The building is continually evolving. Recent additions to the theatre include the introduction of allocated seating and new house lights in the auditorium, with many more improvements, including air-conditioning and a new stage, planned for later this year. See you again soon?