Tricycle Theatre

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

The Tricycle Theatre is located on Kilburn High Road in Kilburn in the London Borough of Brent, England. Since 1980, 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 King's Cross. The name 'Wakefield Tricycle Company' was adopted as a pun on the Wakefield Cycle of mystery plays, the pub's name and the fact that the initial company had 3 members.

The company commissioned new plays which it presented at arts centres around the country and then brought into small London theatres, such as The Bush and The King's Head. The Wakefield Tricycle produced over 60 plays including works by Sam Shepard, John Antrobus, and Olwen Wymark as well as 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, including as a cinema and as a music and dance hall and as temporary offices for Brent Housing Department and Rent Tribunal.[1][2][3]

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 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.

In 1984 Ken Chubb and Shirley Barrie 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 Playhouse Company. Ken Chubb and Shirley Barrie returned shortly thereafter to their native Canada where they have continued working in theatre and education.[3]{[1][2]

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.

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.

2014 Jewish Film Festival funding[edit]

In August 2014, the theatre informed the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) that it could not host the festival in 2014 (as it had done for the previous eight years) if the festival continued to pursue a £1400 grant it had sought from the Israeli Embassy in London.[5][6] The theatre offered to make up the loss itself but the festival's chief executive director Stephen Margolis dismissed this offer as a "publicity stunt", saying that the Tricycle's artistic director Indhu Rubasingham had also demanded to scrutinise the list of films to be shown.[7] The decision led to accusations of anti-semitism and The Jewish Chronicle described the decision as "open racism".[8] Rubasingham drew attention to her own and the Tricycle's record, adding, "I am not anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli".[9]

Nick Cohen, writing in The Spectator, accused the Tricycle of inconsistency, as other groups' or events' funding had not, he claimed, previously been examined in this way. Cohen also pointed out that the Tricycle itself accepted Arts Council funding during times that the UK was actively involved in military conflicts.[10] In an editorial, The Guardian said that the Tricycle had made "a bad error of judgment".[11] Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was reported as saying that the theatre had been "misguided" in demanding the festival drop its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy.[12]

Theatre directors Nicholas Hytner and Richard Eyre both supported the Tricycle's position and deplored those who had misrepresented that position.[5] Hytner also said "Rubasingham and the Tricycle board could not have made clearer their commitment to Jewish culture … It is entirely understandable that they felt obliged to insist that no government agency should sponsor the festival. The Tricycle … has a clear responsibility to make no statement about the dispute that is behind the current conflict. It greatly saddens me that the UKJFF have unwisely politicised a celebration of Jewish culture".[5]

However, in a joint statement on 15 August, the UKJFF and Tricycle Theatre said: "Some weeks ago the UKJFF fell out, very publicly, with the Tricycle over a condition imposed by the Tricycle regarding funding. This provoked considerable public upset. Both organisations have come together to end that. Following lengthy discussions between the Tricycle and UKJFF, the Tricycle has now withdrawn its objection and invited back the UK Jewish Film Festival on the same terms as in previous years with no restrictions on funding from the Embassy of Israel in London." The 2014 festival will not take place at the theatre, but the Tricycle may hold some UKJFF-related events later in the year.[13][14][15][16]


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.[18]

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[19] 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.[20]

Most of these plays have been broadcast by the BBC on radio or television,[21] 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 scale theatre works
  • The Paint Box – a visual arts studio endowed by the John S Cohen Foundation
  • The August Wilson Creative Space – for education and outreach workshops
  • Cafe-Bar


  1. ^ a b Co-founder Ken Chubb's website|
  2. ^ a b Co-founder Shirley Barrie's website|
  3. ^ a b "Tricycle Theatre Archive, 1972-2004". Theatre Collections. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Tim Foster Architects|
  5. ^ a b c "The Tricycle Theatre and the UK Jewish Film Festival" (Press release). The Tricycle Theatre. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Tricycle refuses to host the UK Jewish Film Festival for having Israeli Embassy support" (Press release). UK Jewish Film. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  7. ^ McVeigh, Tracey and Sherwood, Harriet (9 August 2014). "Theatre's decision to ban Jewish film festival is 'thin end of wedge'". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  8. ^ Leader (7 August 2014). "Racism in Kilburn". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  9. ^ Curtis, Nick (6 August 2014). "Theatre director Indhu Rubasingham: I just didn’t want to take sides in a very emotional, passionate situation". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Cohen, Nick (6 August 2014). "Anti-Semitic double standards: the arts and the Jews". The Spectator. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "The Guardian view on Gaza and the rise of antisemitism". The Guardian. 8 August 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  12. ^ Rashty, Sandy (12 August 2014). "Culture Secretary Sajid Javid says Tricycle Theatre "misguided" over UK Jewish Film Festival boycott". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  13. ^ Dysch, Marcus (15 August 2014). "Tricycle Theatre drops UK Jewish Film Festival boycott". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Tricycle Theatre in UK Jewish Film Festival U-turn". BBC News. 15 August 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "Joint Statement The Tricycle Theatre" (Press release). The Tricycle Theatre. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "Joint Statement JFF" (Press release). UK Jewish Film. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  17. ^ Mark Shenton, "London's Tricycle to Reprise Great Game: Afghanistan, Plus New Blessing Play, Ahead of U.S. Tour",, 24 March 2010.
  18. ^ Billington, Michael (5 November 2003). "Justifying War". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  19. ^ Official London Theatre – Olivier Award Winners 2006
  20. ^ "Called to Account: The Indictment of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair For the Crime of Aggression Against Iraq – A Hearing". About Us. Tricycle Theatre. 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "Nicolas Kent". Nicolas Kent. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 

External links[edit]