This week 125 years ago in The Stage, the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith opened to the public.
The Stage reported glowingly of the new theatre: “The Messrs Acton Phillips deserve well of hard-working Hammersmith. For years they ministered – as they still continue to minister – to the lighter tastes of the workers of the populous riverside suburb, at the Theatre of Varieties. Then... they built, opened, and most successfully conducted a theatre just off the bustle of the Broadway, and devoted it to plays of a good class, effectively acted and set. They might very well have stopped there. But to the generous response of the Hammersmith public they, in turn, responded with equal, if not excelling generosity.
The trim little house that had served them well they pulled down, to set up in its stead a theatre of more commodious dimensions.
“Mr Frank Matcham, most productive of theatrical architects, had the work in hand; and at the first public performance on Saturday the praises were loud in favour of the structural ingenuity and the artistic taste he had combined in his plans. Some of the old walls remain, otherwise the theatre is practically a new one.
“A radical alteration is found in the levels of the building. The pit floor was considerably above the ground level, now it is below. How substantial is this change may be gathered from the fact that the dress circle occupies the former position of the pit, the now gallery taking that of the old balcony. The pit has gained immensely in proportions and in rake. It is a pit that should gladden the thrifty heart of Hammersmith. So, too, should the spacious galleries...
“The dearer parts – if dear they can be called with a maximum charge of half-a-crown— are dealt with in a spirit of progressive luxury, and their patrons are seated in velvet during the performance, and provided with the freedom of saloons and retiring rooms during the entr’actes. As in these important particulars, so in general design the skill and experience of the architect have not deserted him."
For more from The Stage Archive, visit thestage.co.uk/archive