Tricycle Theatre

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Tricycle Theatre
Tricycle Theatre Kilburn.jpg
The Tricycle Theatre
Address 269 Kilburn High Road
City London
Country  United Kingdom
Architect Tim Foster Architects
Capacity 235
Opened 1980
Rebuilt 1998

The Tricycle Theatre is located on Kilburn High Road in Kilburn in the London Borough of Brent, England. During the last 30 years, the Tricycle has been presenting plays reflecting the cultural diversity of its community; in particular Black, Irish, Jewish, Asian and South African works, as well as political work.


The Tricycle Theatre opened on the Kilburn High Road, London, in 1980 as the permanent home of the Wakefield Tricycle Company, a touring theatre company that was known for producing British premieres, new writing, children's shows and theatre for the community in London and the South East. The Wakefield Tricycle Company had been started in 1972 by Ken Chubb and Shirley Barrie, performing initially in a room behind the Pindar of Wakefield pub in Kings Cross. Before long the Company was commissioning new plays which it presented at arts centres around the country and then brought into small London theatres which were springing up at that time, such as The Bush and The King’s Head.

As regards the slightly eccentric name of Wakefield Tricycle Company (and hence the present theatre), Ken Chubb recalled in 2013," Our memories of the naming of the company were that Shirley and I and our close friend Lib Spry, (who was an actor in our first production), were sitting in the back room of the 'Pindar'. We had to print a poster and needed a name. The pun on the Wakefield Cycle of mystery plays and the pub's name and the three of us, all seemed to fit". Wakefield Tricycle Company produced over 60 productions, including several plays by Sam Shepard, John Antrobus, and Olwen Wymark. In addition, they produced a number of plays in community venues examining social issues, and several children's plays, some of which were written by WTC co-founder Shirley Barrie.

After securing the support of the London Borough of Brent, the GLA and Arts Council England, the company was given a lease and began converting the Forester's Hall on the Kilburn High Road into what is now known as the Tricycle Theatre (Wakefield being dropped from the company's name at this point), opting for this space due to the lack of local entertainment facilities for the residents of Kilburn at the time. The Foresters Hall, which was built for the Ancient Order of Foresters had previously been used for various purposes. Elderly local residents recalled it being used as a cinema and also as an music and dance hall. Immediately before becoming The Tricycle, the building was being used as makeshift temporary offices for Brent Housing Department and the local Rent Tribunal. Again Ken Chubb recalled " It was like a rabbit warren with no ceilings so you could see the vaulted ceiling from the offices and if you set up a ladder you could just see the top of the proscenium arch".

The 235 seat auditorium, designed by architect Tim Foster and theatre consultant Iain Mackintosh, was modelled on the Georgian Courtyard Theatre in Richmond, Yorkshire. It was built using free-standing system-scaffolding that supported padded benches rather than individual seats. The combination of primary red scaffolding with seats and trim in the theatre's signature blue, gave the theatre a very contemporary feel which belied its Georgian inspiration. Shirley Barrie recalled " The primary considerations were intimacy, the connection between the performers and the audience, and a departure from the black box that had dominated theatre for years". The pre-existing proscenium arch was in front of a stage so shallow as to be almost useless, so a large apron was built to take the acting area out into 'the courtyard', leaving the old stage as almost a backstage area, frequently unused in Tricycle productions, but leaving the theatre with the oddity of a proscenium arch framing a small rear, inner acting area.

From its beginnings, the Tricycle was committed to providing children's theatre, art exhibitions, youth theatre workshops and encouraging new writing by writer's workshops, among the tutors for these workshops was, the then relatively unknown, Anthony Minghella.

In 1984 Ken and Shirley turned the Tricycle over to artistic director, Nicolas Kent, who had previously brought a successful production of Playboy of the West Indies, by Mustapha Matura, to the Tricycle with the Oxford Theatre Company. Ken Chubb and Shirley Barrie returned shortly thereafter to their native Canada where they have continued working in Theatre, and education.[1][2][3]

In 1987 the theatre suffered a devastating fire that spread from a neighbouring timber yard and which seriously damaged the building, however, after extensive fundraising, the theatre was rebuilt and reopened in 1989, with only minor alterations, the original design having been such a success.

Among the highpoints of the first 10 years, were productions of Return to the Forbidden Planet, Just So (a musical based on the Rudyard Kipling children's stories) and productions by National Theatre of Brent, Talawa Theatre Company, Carib Theatre, Market Theatre of Johannesburg Paines Plough, Foco Novo, The Black Theatre Co-operative, Field Day, Druid, Shared Experience and others.

In 1998, a 300 seat cinema was added to the complex, and in 2001 the Creative Space was built for the theatre's extensive education and community work. All stages of the development were designed by Tim Foster Architects.[4]

From 1984 to 2012, the Tricycle Theatre's artistic director was Nicolas Kent. In 2012 the role was taken over by Indhu Rubasingham.


Tricycle Productions 2006 - 2009[edit]

Tribunal Plays[edit]

From 1994, during the tenure of Nicolas Kent as Artistic Director, the Tricycle established a reputation for its distinctive 'tribunal plays' based on verbatim reconstructions of public inquiries.

In 1994 the Tricycle produced Half the Picture by Richard Norton-Taylor and John McGrath (a dramatisation of the Scott Arms to Iraq Inquiry), which was the first play ever to be performed in the Houses of Parliament. This was the first of a series of plays that have subsequently become known as the Tricycle Tribunal Plays. The next, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1946 War Crimes Tribunal, was Nuremberg, which was followed by Srebrenica – the UN Rule 61 Hearings, which later transferred to the National Theatre and the Belfast Festival at Queen's.

In 1999, the Tricycle’s reconstruction of The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry - The Colour of Justice received tremendous critical and public acclaim. It went on to play for two weeks at Theatre Royal, Stratford East and transferred to the Victoria Palace in the West End. It completed a national tour in 1999 which included Belfast and the National Theatre.

In 2003 JUSTIFYING WAR – Scenes from the Hutton Inquiry opened at the Tricycle.

In 2004 the Tricycle produced Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom written by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo from spoken evidence, which transferred to the New Ambassadors Theatre in the West End and the Culture Project in New York (where Archbishop Desmond Tutu appeared in the production). In 2006 the Tricycle presented a performance of the play at the Houses of Parliament and also on Washington’s Capitol Hill. It has since been performed around the world and in the US through the ‘Guantanamo Reading Project’, which develops community productions of readings of the play. Twenty-five of these have already been held in cities across America.

Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry opened in 2005 and later transferred to Belfast, Derry and to the Abbey Theatre for the Dublin Theatre Festival. In 2006 the theatre was awarded an Evening Standard Special Drama Award for "pioneering political work", and a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement[6] for Bloody Sunday.

In 2007 'Called to Account - the indictment of Tony Blair for the crime of aggression against Iraq - a hearing' was staged at the Tricycle with evidence from Richard Perle, the Chilean Ambassador to the U.N. and ex- Cabinet Minister Clare Short. All of these plays have been broadcast by the BBC on radio or television, and have together reached audiences of over 30 million people worldwide.


  • 235-seat theatre
  • 300-seat cinema
  • Art Gallery
  • The Cameron Mackintosh Rehearsal Studio
  • The James Baldwin Studio - for workshops and smaller theatre
  • The Paint Box - a visual arts studio endowed by the John S Cohen Foundation
  • The August Wilson Creative Space - education and outreach workshops
  • Cafe-Bar


External links[edit]