A vacant theatre in north London that was originally touted as permanent home for the set from Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love has submitted plans to be redeveloped into a smaller venue.
Proposals have been submitted to Islington Borough Council by the site’s owner Berjaya UK Investment and Development to reduce seating capacity at the empty 600-seat Collins Theatre to 400.
Located on the site of the former Collins Music Hall, the theatre has remained an unused shell since it was built on the basement level of a mixed-use development in Islington Green in 2009, and attempts to find an operator for the theatre have repeatedly failed.
Planning permission was first granted for the 600-seat theatre, 72 residential units and space for food and drink outlets in 2002. The initial plan – put forward by the site’s then owner Sally Greene – was to sink the entire three-storey, Globe-style structure underground, with the main auditorium built from the set of Shakespeare in Love. There were also plans for the theatre to become a London base for Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.
However, since then, while the flats have been completed, the theatre and restaurant spaces have remained vacant.
In 2016, an application for a 400-seat theatre and two studio spaces was accepted by Islington Borough Council, but negotiations to find a theatre operator failed and the space remained un-let.
Now plans designed by Foster Wilson Architects have now been submitted to Islington Borough Council to redevelop the theatre into a 400-seat venue without the studio spaces, to be run commercially. The plans say that the theatre’s preferred operator is Shaw Thing Productions, a company which was set up in 2016.
The planning documents state: “The general design approach should be to create a characterful contemporary theatre building, which is neither too bland nor too traditional.
“It should have the feel of a proper theatre, with some allusions to the Collins Music Hall heritage, but should have a design ethos that is warm, relaxed and unpretentious.”
It is anticipated the theatre will present plays, musical theatre and music events.
Foster Wilson Architects declined to comment on the plans, and Shaw Thing Productions could not be reached for comment.
Tom Stickland, theatres adviser at theatre conservation body the Theatres Trust, said: “Over [the past decade] the Theatres Trust has supported a number of different operators to develop ways to make the theatre work, including the latest proposals from Shaw Thing Productions.
“We are pleased that these plans are coming forward to finally open up this space to the public and for it to contribute to the thriving theatre scene in Islington.”
He added: “The proposed theatre will have some flexibility around seating arrangements but the shape and basement level of the space cause constraints that the management team has accommodated in its plans.”