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New fringe theatre to open in central Liverpool

The new fringe venue is on Liverpool's Hope Street. Photo: Shahid Khan/Shutterstock The new fringe venue is on Liverpool's Hope Street. Photo: Shahid Khan/Shutterstock
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A new 130-seat theatre is to be built in Liverpool city centre focusing on early-career companies and performers.

The Hope Street Theatre is being organised by Sam Donovan, one of the founders of the Papatango new writing prize, in order to give young companies and performers “a place where they can come and cut their teeth”.

Donovan trained as an actor and now runs two theatre schools in Liverpool, the Performers’ Theatre for three to 18-year olds and the Merseyside Academy of Drama for adults.

He said: “When I moved back to Liverpool two years ago I noticed that there was a real need for a fringe scene.”

He explained that the venue will be a 130-seat multi-configuration space in a Masonic lodge on the same street as Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre.

“The Masons are trying to open the building up to the city. There’s lots of space in it that they don’t utilise at the moment and it just seems like it would be the perfect arts centre,” he said.

Describing the theatre’s purpose, Donovan told The Stage that “the first thing to do is to find out how we fit in in the city”.

He added: “There are some wonderful curated spaces here, like the Unity Theatre and the Everyman Theatre. And really what people need is a place where they can come and cut their teeth, where they can come and hire a space and develop their own work.”

Donovan will run the venue alongside Nick Rogers, director of theatre production company Arcade, and John Garfield Roberts who set up review website The Reviews Hub.

Although he declined to say how much the building would cost, Donovan said that a group of investors, including theatremakers, theatre agents and other supporters of the project, would provide the money for fitting out the venue.

The other major theatres in the city – the Unity, the Everyman and the Empire – will be part of an advisory board for the theatre.

“They’ll come and look at these companies and hopefully provide them with a pathway for development through this city,” Donovan said.

“So the dream scenario for us is if someone comes in, cuts their teeth with us over a couple of years, builds their audience up, and then ATG or the Unity or the Everyman takes them under their wing, then they leave. That’s the perfect success story for this type of venue.”

Hope Street Theatre plans to convert a room at Liverpool Masonic Hall into a theatre space. Photo: John K Roberts Photography

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