Gaiety Theatre, Isle of Man, celebrates 120th anniversary

The Gaiety Theatre celebrated its 120th anniversary on 16th July.

Located in the Isle of Man, was another Frank Matcham work; it was a complete renovation of an earlier structure, opening on July 16, 1900. The theatre enjoyed success until the First World War decimated the tourist industry upon which so much of the island’s infrastructure depended. A slow decline continued through the decades, until in 1971 the theatre was slated from demolition; it was saved at the eleventh hour thanks to a vigorous local campaign. The Council’s purchase of the building signified a brighter chapter in the theatre’s checkered history.

The theatre underwent significant improvements but also commenced a decades-long cycle of painstaking restoration, guided by the Theatre manager of the day, Mervin Russell Stokes, who was later made an MBE for his contribution to the project. It was he who, with help, arranged for the funding and closely supervised the work done, carrying out some of it himself, always with a view to strict authenticity, even down to having the original paint colours, wallpaper and carpeting recreated in order to bring the theatre back -as near as possible- to its original appearance.

The Centenary celebrations were able to present a fully-restored gem of a playhouse which is a true jewel in the crown of the island’s community.

Photo by Claire Schreuder