Located in two interconnecting railway arches along the Albert Embankment in Vauxhall, London, this newly completed theatre provides a more spacious home for the local and award-winning Above The Stag LGBT+ theatre company, which had outgrown its previous venue.
The new Theatre comprises a 110-seat main auditorium, a 60-seat studio, a dance/rehearsal space, exhibition facilities and a large café-bar open throughout the day and evening, along with comprehensive back of house facilities.
This innovative scheme is a key element in the wider regeneration of Vauxhall and Nine Elms – historically a mixture of derelict wasteland and industrial facilities and currently one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe. The scheme is a perfect example of the increasingly creative adaptative re-use of Network Rail’s portfolio of some 10,000 arches across the capital – delivering an impressive programme of regeneration and redevelopment which will encourage better place-making and greater community benefit.
The new Theatre opened with a 25th anniversary production of Jonathan Harvey’s landmark play ‘Beautiful Thing’, first staged in 1993 at the Bush Theatre. The Gay Times, reviewing the production, referred to the new theatre as “the new home for the ‘National Theatre of the LGBT community.’”
FORMstudio has chosen to celebrate the industrial grit of the original architecture. The robust palette of materials features a polished concrete screed, galvanised steel fittings and corrugated grey cladding to the arches, together with areas of exposed brickwork, conjuring up a retro-industrial aesthetic that is further enhanced by a nine-metre-long bar clad in reclaimed scaffolding boards.
The venue has a dynamic street presence at both ends of the arches, enlivening the facade facing the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, as well as providing the theatre with a strong visual identity and sense of place on the Albert Embankment.
Above The Stag is the only full-time professional LGBT+ theatre in the UK and an integral part of Vauxhall’s LGBT+ identity. The area has a rich history, from the 18th-century Pleasure Gardens to the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern, home of performers such as Bette Bourne and Lily Savage, and scene of spirited defiance at the height of the AIDS crisis in the late ’80s.