'Lost' Victorian Theatre To Emerge After 80 Years

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 64 months ago

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'Lost' Victorian Theatre To Emerge After 80 Years
Work taking place below the Alexandra Palace Theatre circle. Photo: Keith Armstrong

A Victorian theatre in north London which was hidden for 80 years is being restored to its former glory following a successful fundraising campaign.

The £26m project to bring the East Wing at Alexandra Palace back to life will result in the re-opening of the theatre, as a 1,300-capacity venue, in late 2018.

First opened in 1875, the theatre entertained audiences of up to 2,500 people with pantomime, light and comic opera, drama, ballet and music hall. Then, for almost a century, it was almost everything except a theatre — including a refugee camp.

But much of the original features remain intact — including its wall painting, balcony and impressive stage machinery, that once allowed performers to fly through the air and disappear through the stage. These are being restored by experts in time for it to reopen.

The programme will include theatre, film, live comedy, music and corporate entertainment.

The view from the stage. Photo: Alexandra Park & Palace Charitable Trust

Elsewhere in the East Wing development, a new "flexible learning and participation space" will open, and host exhibitions including artefacts, photographs and early film, which were thought lost or destroyed.

A cross section of how the theatre will look. Image: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

A project to restore the BBC studios is being revised, and will not form part of this development.

The restoration of the studios will result in "an interactive celebration of the proud history of broadcasting and the BBC at Alexandra Palace, as well an exploration of cutting edge broadcasting and technology".

Inside the Victorian theatre. Photo: APPCT Alexandra Palace

Louise Stewart, Chief Executive of Alexandra Park & Palace Charitable Trust, said: "The public have waited so long to see this spectacular place, set high on the hill above north London, brought back to its original splendour and glory. It’s unbelievably exciting to know that by next year we will have made such a big step forward.

“The Palace has always been bold and even radical in its activities. In 1898 it hosted a replica of the Pyramids of Cairo and a recreation of the last days of Pompeii in the form of a firework spectacular. It was intended as a place where people could relax away from the rush of the city and still enjoy world-class culture and entertainment.”

Find out more about the project:

Alexandra Palace Theatre Restoration from Londonist on Vimeo.

Last Updated 21 May 2018