The Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, celebrates its 125th anniversary on 20th July.
The Lyric Theatre is a rare and truly remarkable survivor. It was originally built as a music hall in 1888 on Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith by a local businessman, Charles Cordingly . It was rebuilt and enlarged on the same site twice, firstly in 1890 and then in 1895 (with additional remodeling in 1899) by the master theatre architect Frank Matcham. The 1895 reopening, as The New Lyric Opera House, was graced by an opening address by the famous actress Lillie Langtry.
After a chequered history of seventy years of successes and slumps, the theatre went up for auction in 1965 but was only finally sold in 1968. According to some sources, the auction was won by a “Mr Richards” who bought the theatre for £26,000. However, the Council believed that they had bought the theatre at the same auction, for the same price. As a result, the theatre went back to auction and the Council eventually bought it for £37,500.
Everything pointed towards the closure and demolition of the theatre. However, a local campaign started to save the Lyric- well, some of it. The campaign argued that the auditorium was of such a high standard that it should be dismantled and reconstructed within a new structure a short distance away in King Street, a much more central and visible location in Hammersmith’s centre. The campaign gathered momentum and eventually succeeded.
The epic work of reconstructing the original auditorium within a new structure is a very rare occurrence today – and even more so over 50 years ago. But with patience, planning and perseverance the work continued, and by 1979 the Lyric Theatre’s new building welcomed the original Lyric’s 550-seat auditorium, opened by HM the Queen.
In 2018 the auditorium’s glorious plasterwork was restored and refurbished to a high standard, as you can see in a detail photo below.
Today, although closed due to COVID-19, the Lyric is thriving as a vital part of its community, and I hope that the theatre enjoys another 50 years of success ahead!
Anyone wishing to explore the removal of the original auditorium plasterwork can see a comprehensive range of fascinating photos at the arthurlloyd.com website here
Welcome to August’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.
As you’ll know, August brings us the Edinburgh Festival where the austerely lovely maiden-aunt of a city becomes a kind of endless lasagne of performance , with hundreds of shows in every conceivable space. Good luck to everyone up there! But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do or see in the rest of the country. Oh no! Just take a look below for a wide range of ideas to suit your own tastes. Enjoy!
SHACKLETON’S CARPENTER , Harry McNish, was pivotal in ensuring the survival of those who went on Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914-17 Antarctica expedition.
When the Endurance sank, leaving the crew of 27 stranded, McNish, brilliant carpenter and shipwright, defied Shackleton, but went all the way with him and ensured all 28 were saved.
For all his bravery and ingenuity, McNish was – oddly- one of the very few who were never awarded the Polar Medal. His health impaired by these shattering Polar experiences, he emigrated to New Zealand where his condition worsened, and he could only get dock work. Now, alone and destitute, one still night on the dockside, in his fevered mind he relives the Endurance expedition, pitting himself once more against Shackleton whilst still plagued by the ghosts of his past. Playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 17 August.
“It would be abnormal if someone didn’t die. You know, that would be very strange. We’d pay a lot of attention, I think, if that happened.”
THE COLOURS is the latest play from Harriet Madeley, who gave us the highly-praised THE LISTENING ROOM, which was a collection of interviews around the effects of violent crime. In this show, five people lie on a Welsh beach, moving through fantasy, memory and reality as they process the most profound yet ordinary of experiences: nearing the end of life.
As they describe moments from their lives, dig into their present experience and reflect on what the future has in store, we are taken on a rollercoaster ride of the human imagination… and transported all the way to the brink; as far as the eye can see.
THE COLOURS was created from interviews conducted with patients at Ty Olwen Hospice in Swansea and Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. THE COLOURS plays at Soho Theatre Upstairs until 17 August.
Please Note: this play deals with medical themes and life-limiting illness.
Until Sat August 3rd. Something different! OUT OF THE WINGS Festival presents its fourth annual festival, exploring untapped theatre from the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world. Over five days, a series of staged readings bring to life new English translations of works by playwrights from six countries, alongside workshops, talks and events, in celebration of theatre in translation. At the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham. More information and tickets here.
Until August 10th. Howard Zinn was an American historian, professor and social activist, widely considered one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His book, A People’s History of the United States, has sold two million copies and is read in schools throughout the U.S. THE TIME OF OUR LIESexplores Zinn’s personal history, including being a soldier who dropped bombs on Royan, France in WWll. That fateful moment troubled him for the rest of his days and shaped the man who would become a moral compass for the United States in ways that are more relevant today than ever before.
Starring Daniel Benzali as Howard Zinn, and directed by Che Walker, THE TIME OF OUR LIES is a battle cry for democracy, transparency, and inclusion. The play embodies Zinn’s battle for social justice and his lifelong struggle against false historical narratives written by those in power that poison the well for true democracy. At the Park Theatre.
Extended to August 3rd and then opening in the West End 27 Sep-4 Jan – If it’s laughter you’re after then you can’t go far wrong with Michael Frayn’s NOISES OFF, returning to the scene of its first success in 1982 at the Lyric, Hammersmith. In this new production, directed by Jeremy Herrin, Meera Syal stars as Dotty, ageing actress who has sunk her life savings into a cheap production of a tired sex comedy, hoping that a quick UK tour will bag her a comfy retirement pot. Naturally, things go awry in ever-more disastrous ways, from the set to the cast to the sardines, as we see the show deteriorate from the rehearsal to the insanity of the end of the tour. With dizzying split-second timing, physical comedy and an incredibly complex plot, at its best this is a show to relax and enjoy to the full! Now where did I put those sardines……..
Playing now at the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, the Olivier and Tony Award nominated musical BLUES IN THE NIGHT is in its first major London revival in 30 years . Directed by Susie McKenna and starring Olivier Award winners Sharon D. Clarke (Death of A Salesman, Caroline or Change, Ghost, Amen Corner) and Clive Rowe (Guys and Dolls, Carousel), Blues in the Night is a steamy compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues numbers that frame the lives and loves of four residents of a downtown hotel. Featuring soul-filled songs by blues and jazz icons Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and many more, it runs to 7 September – and no doubt continuing elsewhere if the ever busy Ms Clarke will find time….
Playing at the Soho Theatre until Aug 24th, THE VIEW UPSTAIRS is the European premiere of Max Vernon’s new musical following its off-Broadway season, here starring John Partridge and Tyrone Huntley, amongst a really first-rate cast of powerful performers. It all starts when Millennial fashion designer Wes buys an abandoned building, not knowing that this forgotten gem was the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ‘70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, starting an exhilarating journey of seduction and self-exploration in the summertime heat with the rush of lust, sex and incense mixed in the air. Filled with a collection of beautiful love songs and power rock ballads, this is a hopeful musical about friendship, community, how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. Although the book could be further developed, it’s the music that will win you- it’s carefully-crafted and authentically 70s-sounding. Read my review of the show here.
If you love the Latin crossover music of Gloria Estefan you will enjoy ON YOUR FEET! It has had mixed but mostly positive reviews, unanimous in the musical content of the show. It looks good and sounds just great, with a brilliant band (worth the price of admission alone) who never let the energy flag.
Featuring 26 hits, this Tony Award nominated show ran on Broadway for two years, for over 750 performances. ON YOUR FEET!is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and charts their journey from Cuba to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Featuring some of the most iconic pop songs of the era, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, “Conga”, “Get On Your Feet”, “Don’t Want To Lose You Now” and “1-2-3” and many more.
ON YOUR FEET! is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman).
Now playing at the Coliseum until 31st August, after which it embarks on a UK tour.
Now nearing the close of this 50th anniversary UK tour, the tribal rock musical HAIR carries on with abandon, starring Jake Quickenden, Marcus Collins and Kelly Sweeney. See it in August in Cologne (Germany) before it returns to the UK to play Glasgow as the last date of its tour.
Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this UK tour of AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. See it in August at Manchester, Bournemouth, Glasgow and Woking . Read my review of the show here
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is out on a national tour until September. See it in August at Canterbury, Dublin, Oxford and Worcestershire. Read my review of the show here
See 1927’s ***** GOLEM for free – now! Right here….
For fans of innovative company 1927 (THE ANIMALS AND CHILDREN TOOK TO THE STREETS and GOLEM), you will be happy to know that 1927 are giving you a second chance to watch the brilliant show GOLEM, until 8th August. It’s right here, above. Enjoy!
Thanks to 1927 for making this available and wishing success to their new show ROOTS which plays the Edinburgh Festival in August, details here
NT Live Broadcasts
Throughout August across the UK there are Encore screenings of the much-praised National Theatre productions of THE LEHMAN TRILOGY and SMALL ISLAND. To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.
For the whole of August, a child aged 16 or under can go to any participating London show for free (where tickets are available) as long as they’re accompanied by a full paying adult. Adults can also buy up to two extra children’s tickets at half price… and there are no booking fees!