The Pentameters Theatre was founded in 1968 and is still run by artistic director Leonie Scott-Matthews, a well known Hampstead resident. It is a 60-seat venue and is a fringe theatre in the London Borough of Camden, located above the Three Horseshoes public house in Hampstead. The theatre has a reputation for producing revivals, poetry, music events and cutting-edge new plays in particular.
The theatre began in a disused skittle alley in the basement of the Freemason's Arms, Hampstead, in August 1968. It moved to an open-air site and also to the Haverstock Arms before moving to its present location in October 1971. It was founded to present poets reading their work in an informal theatrical pub setting. The many authors to appear at Pentameters include Dannie Abse, Fleur Adcock, Kingsley Amis, George Barker, Ivor Cutler, Margaret Drabble, William Empson, Ruth Fainlight, Elaine Feinstein, John Heath-Stubbs, Adrian Henri, Michael Hamburger, John Horder, Michael Horovitz, Libby Houston, Black Gallagher, Ted Hughes, James Kirkup, Fran Landesman, Laurie Lee, Christopher Logue, Edward Lucie-Smith, George Macbeth, Roger McGough, Adrian Mitchell, Edna O'Brien, Brian Patten, Peter Porter, Vernon Scannell, Stevie Smith, Stephen Spender, Jon Stallworthy, Mitchell Symons, John Wain, Heathcote Williams and the psychologist R. D. Laing.
The theatre has also played host to many performers at the start of their careers, including Robyn Archer, Joanna Dunham, Adrian Edmondson, French and Saunders, Nigel Havers, Celia Imrie, Cheryl Kennedy, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Jenny Seagrove, Pamela Stephenson and Alexei Sayle.
Theatrical presentations began in 1969 with performances, plays and readings by John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy, Rosalinde Fuller, Ronald Hayman, Bernard Kops, David Pinner, Harold Pinter, Clive Swift, Anthony Thwaite, Miles Tredinnick, Michelene Wandor, Henry Woolf, regular weekly appearances by Keith Johnstone's Theatre Machine (the precursor of TheatreSports) and productions including Richard Huggett's The First Night of Pygmalion; John Harding and John Burrows' For Sylvia; William Humble's Do It Yourself; Black Notes, Jon Silkin's play on Ivor Gurney; and the British premieres of Tristan Tzara's Handkerchief of Clouds, and Tennessee Williams' Auto-Da-Fe.
Transfers have included Royce Ryton's The Other Side of the Swamp, which transferred to the King's Head and the Phoenix Theatre; Stewart Permutt's first professionally produced play, When I Grow Too Old to Scream, which transferred to the New End Theatre and subsequently for two special performances at the Dominion Theatre; The Sensualist, which transferred to the Arts Theatre; and the American play 70 Scenes of Halloween to the BAC.
In recent years, Pentameters theatre has become primarily known for its productions of classic revivals, mainly by the touring company Traffic of the Stage, including John Edmunds' sell-out new translation of Molière's The Misanthrope with Finty Williams, One Person with Michael Deacon, the award-winning production of Yeats' plays, and the award-winning new play Steinberg's Day of Atonement. The current senior lighting technician and stage manager Oliver Edwards has been a stalwart at the theatre over the past two years.