It nurtured the likes of Helen Mirren and Zawe Ashton but its headquarters were cramped and miserable. Now a revamp has added a touch of Broadway glamour to the famous institution

A pink neon sign glows beneath a light-studded ceiling in the new entrance lobby of the National Youth Theatre, bringing a touch of Broadway glamour to the Holloway Road. Projecting out on to the pavement, occupying what was once a grotty car park on this busy London street, the new pavilion provides a suitably theatrical welcome to the revamped home for the institution – which had been all but invisible until now.

“Even one of the local councillors didn’t know we were here,” says the NYT’s artistic director, Paul Roseby. “Our sign was hidden behind the trees, the front door was always closed and people were shuffled in through a side entrance into a miserable lift lobby. Everything about the place was unwelcoming.”

After a £4m makeover, led by architects DSDHA, it’s now impossible to miss it. Clad in glossy green glazed bricks, oozing the jovial civic air of a Victorian pub, the new structure houses a community studio right on the street, with big shop windows giving passersby a glimpse of the action inside. “All we’re missing is a Hollywood-style Walk of Fame,” says Roseby. “One day I hope we’ll have stars in the pavement between here and the Odeon.”

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