50th Memories: The Opening of the Little Angel

Throughout this important year we’ll be giving you a glimpse into the Little Angel Theatre’s history over the past 50 years. We’re unearthing some amazing documents and photos which we will share each week. In one box tucked away in the theatre we came across the first ever article written about the Little Angel by The Times.

You can view the original newspaper clipping below by clicking on the image for the full size or by reading the typed text below. What a wonderful find!

The Times, Saturday November 25 1961

 

A Marionette Theatre in Islington

From a correspondent

 

England’s only real marionette theatre for over 100 years opened in London last night. It is the Little Angel Theatre, constructed by Mr. John Wright and his Marionette Company in the shell of an old hall in Dagmar passage, Cross Street, Islington.

 

This is a solid and important event in English puppetry. Scotland and Wales have puppet theatres of their own and there are studios adapted for puppets in Lond – Mr. Wright had one himself in Hampstead from 1947 to 1952. And London had many in the past; Devoto’s in Charing Cross was visited by Charles II, and Fantoccini’s in Panion Street by Dr. Johnstone. But this is something new, which the growing revival of puppetry in recent years has badly needed and at last produced. It is the latest milestone in Mr. Wright’s long trek from the hundreds of towns in which he has played in his native South Africa, through film and television studio’s in his country, and tours here and in Scotland, Holland, Germany, Denmark, and Yugoslavia.

 

In an elegant old-world corner of Islington, the Little Angel is surprisingly accessible: in addition to a Tube station bearing her own name she has 14 bus routes passing near her door. Last night’s was not quite a full opening: there is room for only 60 out of the ultimate 100 seats as yet. But it is a fully blown theatre with a colour scheme of black, dove-grey, and orange yellow, with foyer, bar, and workshop. For the next three weekends Mr. Wright’s resident company gives The Wild Night of the Witches, a play “about poisons, potions and Harum-Scarums”, to be followed by two guest companies, Miss Jane Phillip’s and Mr. Barry Smith’s, sharing the bill from December 15 to December 17. Then the home company takes over again on Boxing Day for a Christmas season of Rose Fylemans version of the Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose. The theatre is sponsored by Potheinos Ltd. a non-profit-making company presided over by Dame Flora Robson, and called after the first known puppeteer in European history, a Greek performer of the second century A.D.

 

There is not yet a positive rule that all adults must be accompanied by a child – indeed, later on there may be an attempt to take puppetry’s stiffest fence and cater especially for them. But there will be special shows for children only every Saturday at 11a.m., and on Boxing Day at 3.30. The Sunday performances are for “Friends of the Little Angel” only. The theatre will be featured in “Eye Witness” in the Home Service this morning.

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