Mystery surrounds Islington’s Collins Theatre as opening beckons

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Collins Theatre in Islington - a £20 million plus development on the site of the former Collins' Music Hall - is around 18 months away from completion, The Stage understands.

The 600-seat venue, which has been modelled on an Elizabethan courtyard-style theatre and sunken under ground, is part of a larger commercial venture including 72 apartments above street level. The scheme has been undertaken without public funding by the Collins Theatre Trust, which is headed by Sally Greene, chief executive of Old Vic Productions and the Old Vic Theatre Trust and owner of Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.

When the redevelopment of the venue was first suggested by Greene in the late nineties, both Manchester Royal Exchange and the Royal Shakespeare Company were linked to the theatre, with suggestions that the organisations would use it as a base for London transfers of their work. But when approached by The Stage, both companies said they had had no contact with the venue since the initial discussions. It is unknown what work will be performed in the theatre when it does open.

A source close to the development in Islington told The Stage that the venue was not far from re-opening. He said: "The building work is getting near to completion and it is expected to open within 18 months - at some point next year."

An application to license the venue for entertainment has been received by Islington Council, which will decide on the bid next month.

Greene declined to comment on the development. Speaking in 1996, when carrying out a feasibility study on the venue, she told The Stage: "I want the theatre to be flexible for the directors who use it. To that end there will be no proscenium arch. We will have 600 seats if there is an apron stage and 750 if it used as a theatre in the round. I want the theatre to be accessible for people who live nearby. I want it to be used all day, not just when performances are on."

The Theatre's Trust has not yet been consulted, while Arts Council England, which funded the initial feasibility study, said it was also unaware of plans for the venue to open.

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