Southwark Playhouse—Elephant

Published: 21 November 2022
Reporter: Sandra Giorgetti

Southwark Playhouse Elephant

South East London powerhouse Southwark Playhouse opens a new theatre and its first permanent home in January.

Called Southwark Playhouse Elephant, the venue has a reconfigurable auditorium with a seating capacity of up to 310, plus a dedicated youth and community space.

Artistic director Chris Smyrnios said, “conceived in 2006, this theatre has been a long time in the making, having survived multiple developers, the 2008 credit crunch and a pandemic. Finally, we’ll be able to firmly plant our roots in this amazing and vibrant borough that we call home, we’ll be able to showcase even more work by the best new and emerging theatre artists and practitioners and offer further opportunities for local people to discover and participate in theatre and the arts. And we are so pleased to be opening our new building with two brilliant productions by our community companies.”

Its existing home remains but with the new name Southwark Playhouse Borough, and will operate until at least 2026; this is, and was always envisaged as, a temporary site.

In the meantime, a second purpose-built theatre to be known as Southwark Playhouse London Bridge has been given planning permission. The London Bridge venue will have two flexible theatre spaces and will take Southwark Playhouse back to its earlier home.

The initial programme has been announced for Southwark Playhouse Elephant as:

  • The Wind in the Willows—Alan Bennett’s adaptation of the classic story presented as an amateur production by the Southwark Playhouse Elders Company, a free-to-join group open to locals aged 65+ offering activities, workshops and rehearsal culminating in public performances.
  • Bermondsey Revolution—a new piece on the lives of local social reformers Ada and Alfred Salter devised as "an immersive Brechtian experience" by People’s Company and directed by John Whelan. Participants of the People's Company can explore acting, designing, directing, lighting, sound, marketing and writing. This is accompanied by a post-show discussion on how the play was devised with Graham Taylor, author of Ada Salter Pioneer of Ethical Socialism, on 28 January.
  • The Walworth Farce—a revival of Enda Walsh’s 2006 play looking at how history is moulded and twisted to entrench those in power. Nicky Allpress will direct, and the designer will be Anisha Field.

Southwark Playhouse Elephant has been funded by The Mayor’s Good Growth Fund, The Biffa Award, The Foyle Foundation, The Linbury Trust, The Backstage Trust, The Cockayne Trust, The UK Fidelity Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, Southwark Council, and many individual supporters. It is to be found at Elephant and Castle at Dante Place, 80 Newington Butts London SE11 4FL.