The Park Theatre for me shines like a good deed in a naughty and often dirty theatrical world. I’d certainly give it an award for the cleanest theatre toilet in London, and as a relaxing alternative to braving the wobbly-seated not-daring-to-touch-the-sides nightmares in dripping railway arches, or scary plywood eco-bogs in contemporary refurbishments, it’s a blessing.

In a city full of pub theatres, purpose-built makes brilliant sense, but the Park was also purposeful. Founder Jez Bond had a crystalline single-minded vision to create a venue independent of public subsidy and delivering both aesthetic and artistic quality. £2.5m is not a shoestring budget, but getting two theatres, a bar and café and a couple of penthouses out of it without running to the Arts Council or local authority with a begging bowl is a major achievement.

And it’s such a nice place to go. The area around Finsbury Park station is by any London yardstick hideous, but choose your exit carefully and the Park shines like a beacon barely 50 safe metres away. The enthusiastic stallholder with his free tastings of cut-price mangoes or four-for-a-pahnd-darlin’ Sharon fruit always makes my journey worthwhile even if the bag’s a bit squishy on the way home, and the volunteer team who man front-of-house in the Park are equally warm and kindly and genuinely enthusiastic. The food in the café is Italian-influenced and not pre-packaged, the bar is modern but has quirky furniture and opens late, it’s fairly-priced and there’s a theatre dog. Hazel the Labrador is the friendliest of fixtures, she even has her own twitter feed @ParkTheatreDog.

The main auditorium’s modelled closely on the Donmar and because this is a rectilinear former office building there’s no curvature in the seating and some sightlines aren’t ideal. Choosing main house and studio sizes of 200 and 90 made for economic viability and allows actors to get paid and production values to rise. Their determination to cap ticket prices at £20 is exemplary. Long may it last.

I heart the Park. There should be one in every postal district.

One Stop ArtsOriginally published on One Stop Arts.