Hollywood leading man and former James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, has become the face of a major fundraising campaign to take the legendary arts centre, the Ovalhouse, two miles south, to a new home in Brixton.
For the past 50 years, opposite The Oval Cricket Ground, London’s Ovalhouse has been the home to experimental, radical and overlooked artists working in theatre and performance.
Brosnan gained his first acting experience at Ovalhouse when, at the age of 16 in the early 1970s, he was invited to the venue by a friend.
Soon afterwards he quit his job as a graphic designer to become part of The Ovalhouse Theatre Company and began his career as an actor.
Other alumni include Tim Roth, Stephen Rea, David Hare, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Howard Brenton, Oladipo Agboluaje and Nitin Sawhney.
The Kennington Oval site has become too small for the current operation, and the venue’s ambitions, and in 2017 Ovalhouse will be moving to its new home in Brixton.
The move will be part of the Somerleyton Road Project, a community scheme that will see new homes and the new theatre in the heart of Brixton.
The company is embarking on a fundraising campaign to supplement the value of the current site, which will be invested in the new building.
There will be a series of fundraising events, all fronted by the Hollywood star, plus a drive for individual and corporate donations.
The company has applied to Arts Council England for support to create the new theatre in the centre of Brixton.
The new theatre will offer two theatre spaces plus seven multi-use accessible studios – for rehearsal, participatory work and community activities.
Pierce Brosnan said: “I am deeply honored to be a Patron of the Ovalhouse Theatre; it’s where it all began for me back in 1971. I discovered the world of literature and the arts through theatre, music, dance, and community.
“I found a home in the arts, within the walls of the Ovalhouse. It was a powerful first step for a 16 year-old Irishman who was not sure of where the next step in life would take him.
“I was introduced to the exotic world of The Living Theatre, as well as La MaMa, Grotowski, Lecoq, mime, dance, fire eating, street theatre, children’s theatre, and live performance theatre.
“I found a place where I could dream and be part of a community that made me come alive. I was allowed to express myself…to become an actor and an artist.
“Now, a whole new generation is about to discover a new Ovalhouse Theatre in the heart and soul of Brixton where new music will be written and performed, original theatre will be seen, new writers will be heard, and new ideas shaped and created.
“It’s all there on your very own doorstep.”
Deborah Bestwick, Director of Ovalhouse, said: “Ovalhouse has such a long history of success, having launched individual artists like Pierce Brosnan, theatre companies from Gay Sweatshop to Graeae and whole theatre movements from experimental to agit prop.
“But we are pot bound, and we can’t allow our old, much loved building to hold us back – so the history will inform our future”.