The South London Theatre
|Address||Norwood High Street|
|Public transit||West Norwood|
|Capacity||96 (Bell Theatre)|
30–60 (Prompt Corner)
The South London Theatre is a Community theatre in West Norwood in the London Borough of Lambeth, England. The first play opened in October 1967, and it is now a busy theatrical venue, presenting more than 22 shows annually in two auditoria: the 100-seater proscenium arch "Bell Theatre" and a smaller "black box theatre" called "Prompt Corner", it also has a private basement bar open 363 nights a year which is host to regular social events.
The plays produced include all genres: Shakespeare, comedy, classics, pantomime, musicals and modern cutting-edge drama. New writing is particularly encouraged, as are aspiring directors. There are plenty of available roles behind scenes and help and encouragement is given to new members.
There is a very active youth group (known as the "South London Youth Theatre") as well as children's classes. The children have their own showcases and are also encouraged to participate in the main productions.
The Gothic revival style building was originally a fire station, built in 1881, by the architect Robert Pearsall. It retains much of that original character, for example it is the only fire Station for horse-drawn tenders which still has the look-out tower and doors still in place. The building should always retain its historic features as it is Grade II listed. It had a short history as a fire station as it was built for horse-drawn fire engines and the new motorised appliances were too big for the doors, which could not be extended. The area behind these doors, where the appliances and horses were kept, is now the Bell Theatre stage. Between its life as a fire station and its current one as a theatre, the building was used as a hall for the local church and also as an illegal boxing venue.
The design for the conversion to a theatre was by Owen Luder (later to become President of the Royal Institute of British Architects on two occasions and a well-known Dulwich personality), the original design for the building was probably designed by Richard Pearsall, in the Metropolitan Board of Works Architect's Department.
Like all old buildings, the theatre requires a lot of maintenance and a renovation is planned which should make the building fully accessible and able to accept performances from external theatre companies. Work on this is soon to start so at present the theatre is using other performance spaces. The main shows are at the Stanley Halls in South Norwood and Youth Group performances will be in St Luke's Church next door to the Norwood High St SLT building.