Tabard theatre becomes Chiswick Playhouse

The Tabard theatre is rebranding itself as the Chiswick Playhouse. The studio theatre above the Grade II* listed pub in Bedford Park has shared the pub’s name since its inception. Now the owners have decided they want ‘Chiswick’ to be in the name, so that local people recognise it as their theatre and theatregoers across London know where to find it.

Mark Perry, Executive Director of Chiswick Playhouse, says:

‘We want to demonstrate our pride in our local heritage and ensure that the local community recognises the venue as Chiswick’s local theatre.

‘We also want the wider London theatre-going audience to recognise our reputation as an exciting producing theatre, creating shows that will start in Chiswick and move on to other London venues and beyond’.

Photographs above: Al Murray; Alan Alda with the cast of Radiance; Dara O’Briain

Punching above its weight

The Tabard has built up a good reputation over the past ten years with Simon Reilly as manager, producing a mix of established writers and new work, with mostly unknown actors but the occasional well-known name – Alan Alda’s play Radiance had its UK premiere here in 2015 with Cathy Tyson in the lead role as Marie Curie. Alan Alda himself flew over from LA to be there.

The plays have mainly been produced and performed by tiny ad hoc theatre companies, but the Tabard has also had some great successes – Gigi and the Little Match Girl for example – with in-house productions.

They also have a steady stream of comedians trying out material before they go on tour or launch a new TV show. Al Murray and Dara O’Brien, who both live locally, are among those to have used the space to try out new shows. The Chiswick Calendar has also held several political debates at the theatre.

As ‘Chiswick Playhouse’ it will continue with this mix of material.

‘Rather than genres, we want Chiswick Playhouse to be the breeding ground for the next generation of top creatives’ says Mark Perry.

Photographs above: Charlotte Westenra, directing ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Don’t Change’ . Photograph by Joe Anderson

Talented directors

‘As part of our first season we’re delighted to have rising stars Charlotte Westenra, Lucy Jane Atkinson and Phoebe Barran directing our in-house productions’.

Charlotte Westenra made her name at the Donmar Warehouse, where she was the Resident Assistant Director between 2004-2005. At the Donmar she was assistant director on Kiss of the Spiderwoman and Lower Ninth. Charlotte was also associate director on Frost / Nixon to Michael Grandage and on Piaf to Jamie Lloyd. She is directing the first play to be produced under the Chiswick Playhouse banner: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, 30 October to 30 November, with an impressive cast who have performed in the West End.

The cast includes George Rae (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and The Lion King, West End; Annie, UK tour) and Dominic Hodson (War Horse and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, West End; West Side Story, UK tour), alongside Laura Johnson (Hair 50th Anniversary, The Vaults and Hope Mill TheatreMadagascar, UK tour) and Naomi Slights (Mamma Mia, West End; Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Saturday Night Fever, UK tour).

Subsequent productions in the run up to Christmas include Hansel and Gretel and Christmas at Chiswick Playhouse – a series of Sunday evening concerts throughout December featuring some leading musical theatre talent.

Into the new year there’s a series of one week shows planned, ranging from magic shows with Paul Aitchinson, to a version of Tudor history with Great British Mysteries: 1599 and The Scene, a festival of new writing with 30 short plays across five nights.

The beginning of February sees a revival of Victorian thriller Tryst, following a sell-out run in 2017. If you missed it last time, it’s worth a watch. Director Phoebe Barran and lead actors Fred Perry (Mark’s stage name) and Natasha Barnes were both nominated for Off West End awards.

Photographs above: Chiswick Empire by Sir Peter Blake; Phyllis Logan & Kevin McNally in conversation with David McNally

Chiswick’s theatrical history

Chiswick has a long history of association with the theatre. The Chiswick Empire, which closed down in 1959, had names such as George Formby, Marie Lloyd, Sybil Thorndike, Vera Lynn, Arthur Askey, Laurel and Hardy, Ken Dodd and Cliff Richard performing there. John Osborne wrote Look Back in Anger here in 1955, and Harold Pinter wrote The Caretaker while he was living in Chiswick. Actors David Tennant and Colin Firth live here, as do husband and wife Kevin McNally and Phyllis Logan, who have appeared together at the Tabard being interviewed about their careers by their son David. You can read more about Chiswick’s theatrical history on the Chiswick Book Festival website.

The Tabard pub was built in 1880 by the architect Norman Shaw as part of Jonathan Carr’s development of Bedford Park.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Simon Reilly to leave Tabard theatre

See also: Bedford Park, the first Garden Suburb

The Chiswick Playhouse will continue as a member of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme. See all our current Club Card offers here