A 90-year old repertory theatre in Palmers Green is to be demolished by its church owners after a long-running campaign to save the building was rejected by Enfield council.
Officially it’s a church hall and is owned by St. Monica’s Church next door, but spent most of its life as a theatre, with some use by the church. During its lifetime, the BBC has broadcast from the theatre, and a number of famous people performed there, including Roger Moore, Richard Attenborough, June Whitfield, Harold Pinter, Bob Hoskins, David Bowie, Penelope Keith, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Stephen Fry.
Although the theatre stopped regular productions in 1969, it remained in use for local drama and music societies, but in 1988 approval was given to split the interior into a smaller theatre and parish community centre. In late 2018, the church announced plans to demolish the theatre and a neighbouring building to create a new church hall and residential flats which would be rented out to bring in an income to pay for the cost of the new church hall building.
Enfield council granted permission for the theatre to be demolished in November 2020, but that decision was challenged by the Theatres Trust, citing incorrect advice being offered to the councillors.
A new application filed earlier this year was put on hold until the church clarified how the new building could be used as a theatre if needed, and although they show it’s theoretically possible for a small 156-seat space to be created, it would be a far cry from the already shrunken current capacity for just over 400 people, and the 560 seats it opened with in the 1930s.
The amended planning documents show a theatre space with seating at the same level as a stage that is raised by just a few inches with hardly any lighting provision. It would be a poor space for a public talk, let alone putting on a show.
The council has however accepted the plans and approved the demolition of the theatre.
The Theatres Trust commenting on the revised theatre provision noted that “in reality the proposals are not practically workable for live performances because the stage is inadequate in both height and floor space, audience sightlines would be poor, there is no supporting infrastructure such as sound and lighting, there are no obvious dressing rooms or storage facilities and the capacity is vastly reduced compared to current levels.”