What We Do - Arcola Theatre

What We Do

Arcola produces daring, high-quality theatre in the heart of East London and beyond.

We create trailblazing theatre for all.

Arcola commissions and premieres exciting, original works alongside rare gems of world drama and bold new productions of classics.

Our socially-engaged, international programme champions diversity, challenges the status quo, and attracts over 65,000 people to our building each year.

Ticket prices are some of the most affordable in London, and our long-running Pay What You Can scheme ensures there is no financial barrier to accessing the theatre.

In the last year, our productions have included:

  • the European premiere of Lapine and Finn’s Little Miss Sunshine: A Road Musical, directed by Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen, which is now touring the UK;
  • the first London production in 15 years of D.H. Lawrence’s The Daughter-in-Law, directed by Associate Director Jack Gamble, which played two sold-out runs;
  • a new stage adaptation of Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, directed by Femi Elufowoju jr (“Nothing short of spectacular, 5 stars” – The Guardian);
  • a contemporary staging of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, directed by Julia Burbach, which won the 2019 Off West End Award for Best Opera Production.

“Arcola Theatre brings the very best of the world’s performing and visual arts to the people of the world living and working in London.”

— The Guardian

We enable new and diverse talent.

Arcola finds, nurtures and empowers the next generation in theatre.

Since opening in 2000, we have supported thousands of artists, technicians, stage managers, producers, front-of-house staff and administrators to develop their skills and careers. Alecky Blythe, Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Barney Norris’ first plays were produced at Arcola. Arinzé Kene started acting in our youth theatre; Wunmi Mosaku made her stage debut here. Aml Ameen, Zawe Ashton, Mike Bartlett, Polly Findlay, Lucy Kirkwood, Lynette Linton, Michael Longhurst and Lyndsey Turner all worked at Arcola at the start of their careers.

Our annual Grimeborn Festival unlocks opera for everybody. We give young and diverse companies a platform to embark on bold artistic ventures. Contemporary stagings and affordable ticket prices make opera accessible for the many.

Arcola’s Playwrought scheme provides opportunities for writers to develop new scripts for production, while Arcola Academy empowers young people to build their futures within the arts.

Through Arcola Lab, we offer 26 weeks of free rehearsal space every year to BAME and refugee artists. In 2017, we won the UK Theatre Award for Promotion of Diversity.

“Arcola’s ethos and welcome lets BAME and refugee artists know this theatre is for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

— Cathy Tyson, Pitchlake Productions, Arcola Lab participant

We expand opportunities for everyone to make theatre.

Arcola Participation creates over 13,500 creative opportunities every year for the people of Hackney and beyond – including through our youth theatres, courses, and pioneering Queer, Womens’, 50+ and Mental Health community theatre companies. Every year, we showcase original productions by these companies in our Creative Disruption Festival. In 2017 we won the Adiaha Antigha Award for Most Imaginative Approach to Outreach.

“Arcola has changed my life for the better.”

– Frank, Arcola Youth Theatre Member

We imagine and build a sustainable future.

Arcola aims to be the world’s first carbon-neutral theatre. Our environmental sustainability initiatives, developed with our sister company Arcola Energy, are internationally renowned. In 2018 we won The Stage Sustainability Award in recognition of our ongoing attempts to reduce carbon emissions and raise awareness of climate emergency.

“Arcola’s plans set the gold standard to which all venues should aspire.”

– Mark Watts, Sustainability Advisor to the Mayor of London

“Arcola is one of the great success stories of the British Theatre”
– The Stage


Selected Awards

  • Winner, 2019 Off West End Award for Best Opera Production (The Rape of Lucretia, 2019)
  • Winner, Off West End Award for Best Theatre Bar (2019)
  • Winner, The Stage Sustainability Award (2018)
  • Nominated, WhatsOffStage Award for Best Community Theatre (2018)
  • Winner, UK Theatre Award for Promotion of Diversity (2017)
  • Winner, Adiaha Antigha Award for Most Imaginative Approach to Outreach (2017)
  • Longlisted, Arts Kicker Awards, celebrating arts achievements in East London (2017)
  • Winner, Off West End Award for Most Welcoming Theatre in East London (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
  • Winner, Off West End Award for Best Theatre Bar in East London (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017)
  • Winner, Off West End Award for Best Foodie Experience in East London (2016, 2017)
  • Nominated, Charcoal Blue Award for Venue Sustainability at the Technical Theatre Awards (2015)
  • Winner, Best Theatrical Performance at Hackney One Carnival (2015)
  • Winner, Best Overall Family Welcome at Family Arts Festival Awards (2014)
  • Winner, Best Family Venue at Family Arts Festival Awards (2014)
  • Winner, Best Family Event/Activity at Family Arts Festival Awards (The Three Sillies, 2014)
  • Winner, Best Male Role Model (Mehmet Ergen), Turkish Studies Centre Awards (2014)
  • Winner, Green Build Award – Leisure category (2013)
  • Winner, Learning Trust Educators’ Award (2012)
  • Winner, Sustainable Cities Awards (2011)
  • Winner, Best Social Enterprise, Mayor of Hackney Business Awards (2009)
  • Nominated, South Bank Show Diversity Award (2008)
  • Winner, Peter Wolff Theatre Trust Award (2006)
  • Winner, Time Out Live Awards – Special Award, Favourite Fringe Venue (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)
  • Winner and Special Commendation, Peter Brook Empty Space Awards (2002, 2003)


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