The Old Red Lion, Islington
ORL; Old Red
The Old Red Lion Pub and Theatre, 2007
|Address||St. John Street|
The pub in itself is one of the oldest in London, having first been built in 1415 in what was then the rural village of Islington in open countryside and fields. A house called Goose Farm and some nearby cattle pens (for herds being driven to Smithfield Market) were the only structures to adjoin it, and St John Street (then called Chester Road) was a country lane.
In the late 18th century Chester Road became notorious for highwaymen, with patrols being provided to protect those travelling along it at night. At this time descriptions state that the Old Red Lion was a small brick house with three trees in its forecourt, visited by William Hogarth (who portrayed it in the middle distance of his painting "Evening", with the foreground being Sadler's Wells), Samuel Johnson and Thomas Paine (who wrote The Rights of Man in the shade of the trees in its forecourt).
The Old Red Lion was rebuilt in 1899, designed by Eedle and Myers, adding two exits onto different streets. This gave the pub the nickname "the In and Out", since taxi passengers could avoid paying their fare by entering it through one door and disappearing through the other.
In 1979 a small studio theatre opened on the pub's first floor, as the Old Red Lion Theatre Club. Under artistic director Charlie Hanson, it became a place for actors, directors, designers, writers and technicians to experiment. After the King's Cross fire in 1987, the theatre was threatened with closure due to the tightening of fire regulations. Artistic Director Ken McClymont raised funds to keep the theatre from closing.
Notable past productions
Nina Raine, winner of the 2006 Most Promising Playwright Award, staged her first show, Rabbit, at the Old Red Lion Theatre in March to April 2006. Who is Eddie Linden, a play based upon Sebastian Barker's biography of poet and editor Eddie Linden, was staged in 1995.
The pub is a popular venue for celebrities, including Jude Law, Dido and John Hurt, who are all known regulars when in the area. The cast of HBO series Game of Thrones also regularly visited when working in London. It is the main pub for the Capital Canaries, the official London fan club for Norwich City F.C..
The literary department reads over 1,000 scripts each year, under an open submissions policy.
- Charlie Hanson (1979–1981)
- Jane Goldman (1981-82)
- Mike Gilmore (1982-74)
- Richard Hansom (1984-88)
- Ken McClymont (1988–2002)
- Melanie Tait (2002–2004)
- Helen Devine (2004–2010)
- Henry Filloux-Bennett (Artistic Director 2010-2011) (Co-Artistic Director) (2011–2012)
- Nicholas Thompson (Co-Artistic Director) (2011–2012) (Artistic Director 2012-2014)
- Stewart Pringle (Artistic Director) (2014–2016)
- Clive Judd (Artistic Director) (2016-2017)
- Katy Danbury (Artistic Director & Theatre Manager) (2017–2019)
- Alexander Knott (Artistic Director) (2019-present)
- Historic England. "Old Red Lion public house (1195738)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
- "Old Red Lion Theatre". Theatresonline.com. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- Sansom, Ian. "Who is Eddie Linden". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "The Empty SPACE...Peter Brook AWARDs". blanche marvin's london theatreviews. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011.