Venue of the Month: The Lantern Theatre, Liverpool

May's venue of the month is The Lantern, a fringe theatre in Liverpool bringing intriguing and diverse programming to the heart of the city

Feature by Vicky Anderson | 04 May 2013

A small fringe theatre and bar tucked in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool, The Lantern has enjoyed increasing word of mouth success since its opening in 2009, catering to grassroots, emerging and travelling theatre companies from across Europe.

Housed on the second floor of an old warehouse building on Blundell Street, it's one of Liverpool's few theatres truly dedicated to fringe theatre – but that's not all you'll find going on. Regular folk nights, the Rush of Laughter comedy club and the odd one-off gig all make use of The Lantern's space. It supports new writing and new companies, and provides an ideal stomping ground for established talents to try out experimental work – and there are regular acting and storytelling groups and workshops, and children's events. Eventually, The Lantern aims to stage its own in-house productions, but for now hosts touring work from across the Northwest and the rest of the UK.

Mother and daughter team Margaret Connell and Siobhan Noble took the reins of the theatre 18 months ago, with Connell, a former drama tutor at Hope University, investing in the theatre with redundancy money. With years of experience in theatre both as an academic and working on the outreach and education side of things for several Merseyside venues – plus coming from a family actively involved in the industry – Connell had a clear picture of what the city needed from The Lantern, and what she wanted it to be.

"Our vision for The Lantern was [for it] to be something very community-based," she says, "dedicated to developing audiences and championing new writing, especially new writing with a regional voice. I believe that is something that is very lacking in Liverpool. There is a huge gap for a small-scale theatre that people can afford to take chances in."

This month sees a busy and eclectic mix of local and national performers passing through, resulting in some of the most intriguing and diverse programming you could hope to find in the region.

This includes everything from a production of Brecht's Fear and Misery of the Third Reich from Dingle Community Theatre (7-9 May) to Everything has been said, they say, a piece from Danish performance artists Arrieregarden (12 May). Political stand-up show Transatlantic Fury with Nick Revell and Lee Camp arrives 16-17 May, while the delightfully strange prospect of an adaptation of Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale told through the songs of Bob Dylan can be seen on 24 May. Finally, established writer Andrew Sherlock (The Shankly Show, Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles) will be showcasing new work The Judgement of Hakim as part of the Writing on the Wall literary festival from 29-31 May.

Having been refurbished by Connell and Noble, with its extended bar area and warm boho ambience, The Lantern is a desirable night-out location in itself – and this is how its folk and comedy nights have gathered such a following. People may not know where they’re going the first time they visit, but Connell says many go on to become regular patrons.

“The Lantern is steadily being discovered by local artists and theatre groups who want to perform here,” she says.

As the Baltic Triangle area is slowly reborn as one of the city centre's creative hubs, and as new businesses, apartment blocks and a café culture start to appear in this previously abandoned and relatively cut-off part of town, so Connell's gamble is starting to pay off.