Theatreland Tour with Ian McKellen
Now you’re safely across the road, turn and look back the way we came.
The red, terracotta building in front of you was once the Hippodrome Theatre.
It was designed by the great theatre architect, Frank Matcham.
Do you see the statue at the very top of the building? See the soldier on his chariot?
Frank Matcham chose the statue because of its horses. When he opened the Hippodrome Theatre in 1900, it presented many equestrian and even aquatic events. In fact, the entire auditorium of the Hippodrome could be flooded for staged sea battles.
Alright, let’s get going again.
Turn around. Leave the Hippodrome behind you, staying on the left hand side of the road.
You know, the greatest thing about Frank Matcham, the architect, wasn’t his skill as an engineer. For me, it was his role in spreading theatre beyond London, to the rest of the country. Indeed, most of his theatres were outside London and many of them are still working. I’ve worked in them. The Theatre Royal in Newcastle-on-Tyne, The Lyceum in Sheffield, the Alhambra Bradfield.
He built them all to roughly the same specifications. So a company touring its West End production after a successful run in London, could perform without having to change the set too much each week. That was Matcham’s lasting contribution to British theatre and why he’s one of my heroes.