Complicite scraps plans for Alexandra Palace rebirth

Ruth Gillespie

Soaring repair costs have led to the scrapping of plans by north London-based Theatre de Complicite to resurrect the Alexandra Palace’s abandoned theatre as a performance space.

The company had announced plans for a £500,000 refurbishment of the 19th century building last year, more than 65 years after the venue went dark, and planned to occupy the space for 12-weeks in the spring. However, Complicite has been forced to abandon its proposals after the cost of essential safety work on the 2,500-seat auditorium shot up from £160,000 to £310,000.

Keith Holder, general manager of the Alexandra Palace and Park, said: “The charity has been talking to Complicite about a production in the theatre for more than two years and together we have worked tirelessly to bring it back into life. After lying dormant for almost 70 years what better way to open its doors to the public than through the work of this ground-breaking international theatre company?

“Unfortunately, the final estimate for the works necessary was much higher than anticipated at more than £310,000. Given these costs, Complicite has not been able to continue, despite the company’s huge commitment to the project. Naturally this is very disappointing for both Complicite and Alexandra Palace and we are very grateful that they pursued the project with such enthusiasm.”

Founded in 1875 the venue went dark in 1936 when the BBC took it over as a rehearsal facility. Later it became a store for props and when the Corporation left the site in 1982 it was in a critical state of disrepair.

A support group called The Friends of the Alexandra Palace Theatre was set up in 2002 to assist the Alexandra Palace Charitable Trust, which runs the building and surrounding park, in restoring the Victorian venue to public use. Theatre de Complicite had planned to bequeath the performance space in working order to Haringey and the Palace Trust following its stay.

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