For more than 80 years The Arts Theatre in London has enjoyed a glamorous and exciting reputation which belies its chequered history. In its glittering past the Arts Theatre Club presented the UK or world premiers of now seminal plays such as Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Pinter’s The Caretaker and Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. A young Sir Peter Hall directed the world premier of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot there before going on to run the Arts for several years. Such was the Arts reputation that it was described as ‘a pocket National theatre.’ For a time the RSC had their London residence at the 347 seater venue, before, in 1967, it was leased to The Unicorn Children’s Theatre, the first children’s theatre in the UK.
In recent years however The Arts has suffered somewhat as London’s fringe scene has burgeoned, even causing the theatre to close for periods of time. The current owners, Consolidated St. Giles LLP, served notice on operating company, Basrat, earlier this year and the theatre has once again been dark.
A new era for the Arts is hopefully about to dawn however as JJ Goodman Ltd, the bar and restaurant group who run the Covent Garden Cocktail Club bar in the theatre, have taken on the lease and appointed Mig Kimpton as executive director.
Kimpton is London manager for the RSC and previously was the director for the Arts in 2009, under Basrat. Kimpton has an impressive CV and reputable background in managing venues. As a producer he was responsible for the critically acclaimed Ian McKellen: A Knight Out, here, in South Africa and on Broadway. He has also had a lengthy career as Company Manager for Michael Rose, Qdos, Edward Snape and Paul Elliott.
From the opening of The Playhouse in 1987 through to the early 90’s he was General Manager, and he has been General Manager of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain.
“Having that track record,” Kimpton said, “I feel I can prove myself at the Arts to make it a successful building. The Arts needs to re-establish itself as a good place to come, for producers and also for audiences.”
The Arts Theatre will reopen in January and Kimpton promises a ‘broad spectrum’ of productions.