Unrestricted View 25th Anniversary – Hen & Chickens Theatre, London

By Maryam Philpott

Taking up residency in 1999, Unrestricted View gathered at its Islington venue the Hen & Chickens Theatre to celebrate its 25th Anniversary, a black box theatre above a pub that has hosted the theatre, comedy and film festival strands of Unrestricted View’s enduring and evolving business. To an invited audience of friends, family, writers, directors, performers and critics, the event looked back at some of the big names who have appeared at the theatre to tell its story, remind attendees of its new work ethos and preview two upcoming works, all hosted by founders and Co-Artistic Directors Felicity Wren and James Wren, and Theatre Manager Mike Lyminster.

The afternoon began with a video introduction recalling the early days of the production company as it established itself as a place for new writing including James Wren’s early work. Several of the photographs raise cheers and affectionate responses from the audience as visions of younger selves flash by and the Unrestricted View triumvirate talks about the development of the business, its artistic diversification into comedy and film, and the many triumphs and disasters that have befallen the venue during its tenure including both fire and flood.

Captured primarily in the theatre space and bar, this affectionate video tribute expands with birthday greetings from a plethora of stars who have honed their act in the Hen & Chickens with special messages from Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle and Nina Conti (and monkey) who spoke about the importance of the space as a place to try out new material but also the support they received from the Unrestricted View team when starting out. With nods to other famous names including Miranda Har and The Mighty Boosh, this wander down memory lane is a clear reminder of the importance of fringe venues in the broader theatre and comedy landscape.

The second part of the event previewed two upcoming shows including a few minutes of Alice Bragg and Lucie Capel’s Corona Daze, running from 19 – 24 May, looking back at the sanitisation obsession of the pandemic as its estate agent central character connects with her mother via a Zoom-call while panicking about the country’s economic collapse. Next writer Dean Stalham introduced his latest play, So Help Me Dog running from 28 May to 15 June, by recalling his own direct history of staging plays at the Hen & Chickens and reading from a positive review of his first production covered in Time Out.

With plenty more shows scheduled, an upcoming Horror Film Festival, hosting productions for Camden Fringe and stand-up nights, Unrestricted View has plenty to be getting on with and another 25 years to embark on.

Silver jubilee

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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