Venue of the Month: The Lass O’Gowrie, Manchester
A pub with a snug and a 30-seater theatre, The Lass O’Gowrie is at the heart of Manchester's fringe, and dedicated to doing things a little differently
You can find The Lass O'Gowrie on Charles Street, just off Manchester’s busy Oxford Road at the edge of the city centre. The pub’s intimate upstairs theatre space, the Salmon Room, seats just 30 people, yet has become the busy heart of Manchester’s fringe theatre. But fringe theatre isn’t all The Lass does. The pub hosts everything from classic drama to live comedy, as well as retro-gaming nights and that old favourite: a pub quiz. While the venue welcomes a number of independent theatre companies, roughly half of its shows have been directed and performed by its own in-house company, Lass Productions.
Gareth Kavanagh, pub landlord and the man in charge of the Lass’s theatre space, admits that its involvement in theatre came about pretty much by accident. “I wasn’t really interested in theatre when I first started at the Lass,” he says, “but I was very into retro TV and was always digging up old lost scripts.” It wasn’t until Colin Connor, an actor, writer and Lass regular, suggested turning a meeting room into a small stage that The Lass O’Gowrie’s theatre potential was realised. The idea quickly took off and now the theatre is well known as a place for new and upcoming writers to see their work performed, and for people to come to watch things they could never see anywhere else.
Inspired by Kavanagh’s interest in cult TV and archive scripts, The Lass O’Gowrie develops its own unique take on productions to tempt an audience that might not normally be so interested in theatre. Reinvented old TV classics and fandoms such as Doctor Who and Blade Runner – alongside live performances of 1960s Coronation Street episodes – and ‘lost gems’ such as Jack Rosenthal’s screenplay The Best, based on the life of George Best, are just a few examples of the theatre’s diverse offerings. As Kavanagh says: “We want to prove that theatre can be anything.”
Festivals form a huge part of the pub's annual programme. In January, it hosts its very own in-house LassFest, and last July it became a founding member of the multi-venue Manchester Fringe Festival, a celebration of Manchester fringe theatre that is due to double in size this year. This July, the venue’s long and varied Fringe set list will include the premiere of Suspended in Space (8-10 Jul), a darkly comic drama from Keith Temple about a stuck lift in a sci-fi convention, and Colin Connor’s original Meanwhile (2-4 Jul), previously performed at the 2009 Not Part Of festival. Another drama premieres in the form of Jess Lee’s Diabetic Penguins (5-7 Jul), and there will also be Dan Thackery’s adaption of Wine of India, a futuristic drama written by Nigel Kneale and last seen over 40 years ago when it was broadcast on the BBC (11-14 Jul).
Cosy, friendly, with real ales and never dull pies, The Lass O’Gowrie is a fine place to enjoy a night of talented and eclectic entertainment.