THE BASEMENT | 18 NEW BRIDGE STREET WEST | NE1 8AW | OPEN TILL LATE | 0191 261 5906
(Tip to find the entrance – look for the blue gates by the NCP car park entrance)
Out of all the places I’ve discovered on my wanderings around Newcastle, including those I haven’t got around to writing about yet, Alphabetti Theatre is hands down my favourite find. ‘Best kept secret’ and ‘hidden gem’ are phrases that are flung around all too often, but they couldn’t be more apt in this instance as I’m convinced it’s the funkiest little place you’ll find in the toon.
Residing in the basement of the same building that hosts the NewBridge Project studios, Alphabetti Theatre is a theatre, bookshop, bar and café all in one. Set up by Ali Pritchard in 2012, it’s pretty inconspicuous; at the back of the entrance to the NCP car park just off Northumberland Street, a pair of blue gates and a small sign are the only indicators of the venue underneath. Every time I’ve taken friends there, their faces have started to blanch as I lead them towards the back of a dark, derelict car park. It’s soon replaced by a smile of sweet surprise though, as a black and white mural invites you down the concrete stairs to the theatre, bar and box office.
Once down, you walk into the most adorable treat of a bar ever. It’s a jumbled mish-mash of furniture and fairy lights – an old velvet chaise longue sits in front of a make-shift plywood bar, under a wooden canopy of hanging amber lamps. It’s the kind of place you’d take a gal on a date ever so casually, and they’d suddenly rate you a lot more. The bar is cheap and well-stocked considering its size – scotch fans found their ideal tipple, tasty double G&Ts came in at £4, and a bottle of wine was £12. There’s also a resident dog, Rex, that wanders around the place making friends.
The bar isn’t all though; in the two adjoining rooms there’s a theatre space and a bookshop with tables and chairs that work as an overflow for the bar/café when it’s busy. The bookshop is decked out in a similarly cute manner, with a great selection of cheap but high quality, and often underrepresented, literature around the walls. It’s a great space to work in when sick of the Robbo library – and when work’s finished, a drink is just the other side of the door.
The theatre space is small, but effective for the intimate and discerning productions that Alphabetti host. They’re committed to creating, producing, and programming original work from emerging artists across all of the performing arts — particularly theatre, comedy, music and poetry. They’re absolute champions of fringe culture and opportunity, and want to make art accessible to all – their shows run on a ‘pay what you feel’ policy, or tickets are under £10. I recently saw the disco-biscuit dance-inducing We Are Ian there, by In Bed With My Brother. If it’s anything to go by, the rest of what they put on will be marvellous too. (You can read my review of We Are Ian here if you’re interested. I’d highly recommend it as 50 minutes of clever, butt-wiggling fun.) Of note are their Alphabetti Soup nights, where performers in a variety of mediums are invited onstage and anyone is welcome to get involved. Alongside pieces of theatre, Alphabetti often puts on comedy nights, gigs, and just some great parties.
Unfortunately, their current venue is being demolished imminently. The entrance is obscured from view by building works, but it’s still there so do go! And fear not, they’re moving to a new, permanent home, so watch this space for news on where it is. Until then (demolishment doomsday is 12th March), check out what shows are on through the link below, or just pop in for a drink at the jazziest little bar in the toon.