Before the Almeida Theatre was known city wide in its current incarnation it was a lecture hall. This was in the days of The Elephant Man, and when conjoined twins and bearded ladies were removed from the hospital and taken to the roadside freak show. Hand-rubbing gleeful surgeons would listen to professorial speeches about the latest techniques in aneasthesia or eyes widening witness the latest equipment to remove cysts from the digestive tract or lung.
The spectacular was muted by the First World War and the nursing of the trenches. The building lay dormant for some time until the Salvation Army took over using it mostly for storage. Soon the building was left to rats and the winter damp until Mr Beck of Islington saw its potential in the 1960’s and opened Mr Becks Carnival novelties selling and hiring fancy dress attire and circus equipment.
Mr Beck a timid and private transvestite was tragically murdered by his brother in law for bringing shame to the family. And today the emergency signal for a fire at this popular theatre is ‘Mr Beck’ wherever he may be. It is said that his shadowy figure is still seen loitering in the Green Room quietly listening to the interval conversations about make up and drag and the freedom of dressing up.