MARCH 2017 INTERNATIONAL VISIT
Each year, the Frank Matcham Society plans an international visit, which this year was to the South of France. An interesting cluster of theatres of differing shapes, sizes, ages and capacities along the south coast of France had come to light, from Toulon in the east to Montpellier and beyond in the west. Our initial enquiries to see if they could accommodate us brought encouraging responses, and so it turned out to be with great welcomes from our host theatres on this seven night visit. Members that were unable to join us should look out for a write-up in the Newsletter soon and a video, now in post production, will be posted here when available.
A visit to Manchester’s evolving theatre scene took place 5th & 6th September 2016.
This was a great opportunity for visiting three contrasting theatres in this city with its rich theatrical traditions.
A few Society members may have been on our previous trip here way back in 2003. Then, we went to Bertie Crewe’s wonderfully flamboyant auditorium of 1913 at the Palace and we had a great tour. Incidentally, there is still a little part of the building (1896) that is by Matcham! The Opera House, both run by Ambassador Theatre Group, is a simpler, more classically inspired interior (1912, by Farqharson, Richardson and Gill).
The Library theatre (1933) desperately wanted more room and a new (2015) complex has been built not far away on former industrial land. It is very large, with two theatres, several screens and plenty of foyer space for cafes. Whether you like modern theatres or not, HOME is one we could not ignore.
These and more made a busy two days of theatre interest. The organiser negotiated a late addition of the seldom seen J J Alley Grade II listed Hulme Playhouse.
There’ll be a write-up of the visit in the members Newsletter.
The Society visited Aberdeen providing an opportunity to explore two very different Matcham designs in the Tivoli Theatre and His Majesty’s Theatre. The Tivoli, originally designed by local architect James Matthews & renowned theatre architect C.J.Phipps, opened in 1872 as Her Majesty’s and was subsequently updated by Frank Matcham in 1897 and 1909. Great welcome from owner Brian Hendry who guided our group around the theatre and museum room himself, explaining the ongoing restoration and the theatre’s history.
His Majesty’s Theatre was originally built as a replacement for the Tivoli in response to the need for a larger venue, improved refreshment areas, increased comfort for patrons and more extensive staging facilities. At the time of opening in 1906, the foyer entrance leading directly to the Dress Circle was unique to British theatre design. The theatre quickly became a staple on the UK theatre circuit as well as a prominent part of the Aberdeen skyline.
In addition to these Matcham theatres, we visited the Art Deco Beach Ballroom, ACT (Aberdeen Art Centre & Theatre) and the Footdee, plus presentations about the current restoration of the Music Hall, Art Gallery & Cowdray Hall. A full visit write-up will be in a future members Newsletter.
Our AGM and associated events were held on Saturday 21st May in Birmingham and included visits to four theatres; the New Alexandria, Hippodrome, Old Rep and the New Rep. All the backstage tours were enjoyed, thanks to our terrific hosts at all these venues. Society members can read a full write-up in a future edition of the Newsletter.
We returned to Germany, visiting theatres in Munich, Bayreuth, Dresden, Weimar and Leipzig 21-28 April. See Adam Harrison’s thoughts on the Thunder Run we saw demonstrated at the Prinzregententheater in Munich on our News Features page and members can read the full write-up in a future edition of the Newsletter.
Also see some of these venues in a great selection of Germany’s theatres in the Klaus Frahm photos on Buzz Feed follow this link here.
We visited Plymouth’s Theatre Royal stages, the early Globe theatre in Stonehouse Barracks, courtesy of the Commanding Offficer, the now restoring Palace Theatre, and more.
Mark Fox of Really Useful Group led an interesting Covent Garden theatre history walkabout. Read about it in the next members Newsletter.
Another exciting London theatre visit took place on 26 October when we toured the Palace Theatre at Cambridge Circus.
The overseas tour was Northern France with Lille as a base for exploring this often overlooked area for theatres.
This years AGM was kindly hosted at the Kings Southsea and included a preview of a documentary on Frank Matcham and his theatres.
Tours featured the new Stage House at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, the Kings, Groundlings at Portsea and Bedales school theatres in Petersfield.
A return visit to the Gaiety Theatre Douglas Isle of Man including a talk, nook and cranny theatre tour and associated events.
The Society’s hugely successful 2014 tour of the little theatres of Le Marche in Italy visited fourteen
beautiful venues accompanied by Ian Arnott the author of the book that inspired the visit.
Hidden Theatres of Le Marche is still available from booksellers.
Watch the YouTube videos by Trevor Morson of the visits that the Frank Matcham Society made to theatres at home and abroad: