Good Venue Guide

39: BRIDEWELL THEATRE, EC4

Date of Birth: 20 November 1893; newly renovated in 1994.

Brief history: from swimming pool to theatre in the space of a century, the Bridewell still provides the "recreation and innocent amusement" which HRH the Prince of Wales so admired back in 1893. The building, originally called the St Bride's Foundation Institute, was frequented by Fleet Street newspaper clerks who used to pop by in their lunch hour for a spot of aerobics. The sunken-pool area, dry since 1972, was chanced upon by Carol Metcalfe while searching for a suitable venue for her musical. It is now covered with a wooden floor that, in its previous incarnation, supported ladies indoor cricket and gentlemen's gymnastics. Today the sub-stage area provides opportunities for all sorts of trap-door shenanigans and doubles as the orchestra pit. It makes the phrase "break a leg" take on a dangerously new significance.

Uses: where Victorian matrons once splashed and frolicked, resplendent in full bathing dress, the Bridewell Theatre Company now stages hits like Damn Yankees and Marry Me a Little. Most prestigious was their world premiere production of Sondheim's Saturday Night.

Waste not want not: the original changing cubicles have been maintained and transformed into lighting and sound boxes.

Current events: a venue for the City of London Festival, it will be hosting iterary readings (including Will Self with Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys, Simon Callow reading his Orson Welles biography, and Roy Hattersley with Fifty Years On). Eyam, the world premiere of a musical by Stephen Clark (a Sondheim protege), runs from 8 Jul to 1 Aug, Tue-Sat at 7.30pm and Sun at 3.30pm. Tickets are pounds 12/pounds 8 concessions. All bookings for the Festival on 0171 638 8891.

Getting there: by tube to Blackfriars or Chancery Lane.

Where to meet: there's a spanking new Pizza Express just opened on St Bride's Street; otherwise, the theatre bar.

Cost of a glass of wine: pounds 1.20. Annabelle Auerbach

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