Theatre History

For details on specific productions, please visit our Production Archive.

For a history of the Finborough Arms pub, please click here.

Founded in 1980, and celebrating its 40th birthday this year, the multi-award-winning Finborough Theatre presents plays and music theatre, concentrated exclusively on vibrant new writing and unique rediscoveries from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Our programme is unique – we never present work that has been seen anywhere in London during the last 25 years. Behind the scenes, we continue to discover and develop a new generation of theatre makers – most notably through our invitation-only Finborough Forum monthly meetings.

Despite remaining completely unsubsidised, the Finborough Theatre has an unparalleled track record for attracting the finest talent who go on to become leading voices in British theatre. Under Artistic Director Neil McPherson, it has discovered some of the UK’s most exciting new playwrights including Laura Wade, James Graham, Mike Bartlett, Jack Thorne, Alexandra Wood, Nicholas de Jongh and Anders Lustgarten, and directors including Tamara Harvey, Robert Hastie, Blanche McIntyre, Kate Wasserberg and Sam Yates.

Artists working at the theatre in the 1980s included Clive Barker, Rory Bremner, Nica Burns, Kathy Burke, Ken Campbell, Jane Horrocks and Claire Dowie. In the 1990s, the Finborough Theatre first became known for new writing including Naomi Wallace’s first play The War Boys, Rachel Weisz in David Farr’s Neville Southall’s Washbag, four plays by Anthony Neilson including Penetrator and The Censor, both of which transferred to the Royal Court Theatre, and new plays by Richard Bean, Lucinda Coxon, David Eldridge, Tony Marchant and Mark Ravenhill. New writing development included the premieres of modern classics such as Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and F***king, Conor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower, Naomi Wallace’s Slaughter City and Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.

Since 2000, new British plays have included Laura Wade’s London debut Young Emma, commissioned for the Finborough Theatre, two one-woman shows by Miranda Hart, James Graham’s Albert’s Boy with Victor Spinetti, Sarah Grochala’s S27, Athena Stevens’ Schism which was nominated for an Olivier Award, and West End transfers for Joy Wilkinson’s Fair, Nicholas de Jongh’s Plague Over England, Jack Thorne’s Fanny and Faggot, Neil McPherson’s Olivier Award nominated It Is Easy To Be Dead, and Dawn King’s Foxfinder.

UK premieres of foreign plays have included plays by Brad Fraser, Lanford Wilson, Larry Kramer, Tennessee Williams, the English premiere of Robert McLellan’s Scots language classic, Jamie the Saxt, and West End transfers for Frank McGuinness’ Gates of Gold with William Gaunt and John Bennett, and Craig Higginson’s Dream of the Dog with Dame Janet Suzman.  

Rediscoveries of neglected work – most commissioned by the Finborough Theatre – have included the first London revivals of Rolf Hochhuth’s Soldiers and The Representative, both parts of Keith Dewhurst’s Lark Rise to Candleford, The Women’s War, an evening of original suffragette plays, Etta Jenks with Clarke Peters and Daniela Nardini, Noël Coward’s first play The Rat Trap, Emlyn Williams’ Accolade, Lennox Robinson’s Drama at Inish with Celia Imrie and Paul O’Grady, John Van Druten’s London Wall which transferred to St James’ Theatre, and J. B. Priestley’s Cornelius which transferred to a sell out Off Broadway run in New York City.

Music Theatre has included the new (premieres from Grant Olding, Charles Miller, Michael John LaChuisa, Adam Guettel, Andrew Lippa, Paul Scott Goodman, and Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days which transferred to the West End) and the old (the UK premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair which also transferred to the West End), and the acclaimed ‘Celebrating British Music Theatre’ series.

The Finborough Theatre won The Stage Fringe Theatre of the Year Award in 2011, London Theatre Reviews’ Empty Space Peter Brook Award in 2010 and 2012, swept the board with eight awards at the 2012 OffWestEnd Awards, and was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2017 and 2019. Artistic Director Neil McPherson was awarded the Critics’ Circle Special Award for Services to Theatre in 2019. It is the only unsubsidised theatre ever to be awarded the Channel 4 Playwrights Scheme bursary eleven times.