History of NLA

NLA was founded in 2007 with a view to showing all people interested in plays those they are unlikely to otherwise get to see. This includes plays lost in the mists of time, new work never previously performed and plays which although famous relatively recently have dropped out of view because of the plethora of new plays appearing every week. Opportunity also is not just a question of whether plays are performed but where. The UK has a thriving regional theatre which often stages obscure plays but, for London dwellers, attending them can be too costly.

The idea of semi-staged readings after one rehearsal came from the group Actors and Writers London of which I have been a member for several years. The concept works well and their performances are both entertaining and interesting. However, they look only at new writing. We do not wish to overlap with them, which is why we concentrate on plays that fall outside their brief.

It is true that one cannot plumb the very depths of a great play with one rehearsal but with an experienced professional cast and good direction what emerges is surprisingly powerful as well as being highly entertaining (recent performances of The Lady From the Sea by Ibsen, The Silver Box by Galsworthy and I Have Been Here Before by Priestley have proved this). The intimate setting, with the actors a mere foot or so away adds to the immediacy. And where else can you see professionals putting on a performance for £3?

Over the course of the last five years we have covered plays of most of the major genres from Plautus to Gelbart, Jacobean tragedy, Restoration comedy and so on with many foreign plays in translation. These plays are of interest not only to a theatre-going audience but to the actors who take part - increasing the scope of their CV's - directors who have the scary job of bringing a piece alive in six hours and producers interested in seeing the suitability of a piece for future revival.

The five years since we started has also been a major learning curve for all involved. 2012 sees the culmination of a slow revamping of procedures over the last few months. We have brought in new products, new systems, database and website and a more formalised committee structure. Many of these are discussed in more detail elsewhere on this site.

Take a moment to look through the list of our past productions, fliers and cast lists to gain an idea of the breadth of our scope.

Our aim is to please as many as we can and to cover as wide a range of plays as the format permits.

'It is frequently said that theatres today are minimising their repertoire, for fear that audiences will not come to see anything they do not already know. Happily, NLA goes in the other direction.'
Helen Cashin, actor and NLA member

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