Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published December 12th 2016
A Stunning Architectural Landmark
Built in 1891, Palace Theatre is one of the oldest in London, and in my opinion the most iconic due to its location. Situated in the centre of Cambridge Junction, is on the intersection of two famous London streets: Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. It stands out from a distance, and you cannot fail to miss it when walking past. This is because of the giant sign at the front featuring its current production.
I first noticed Palace Theatre when I was fifteen and saw a wacky, gold goblet held by the hand of God in the cloud. I considered it an important landmark to help me find my way around the area. Once I reached the Monty Python sign, I knew where I was.
Palace Theatre has been the venue for many notable plays,the most famous probably being Les Miserables, which was staged there for a record-breaking nineteen years between 1985 to 2004.
Although I had walked passed the theatre many times, I had never been inside until recently, when I went to see its latest production, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
The architecture from the outside is of exquisite curved red brick with arched windows reaching to the sky. The foyer is a compact space where you can buy your theatre for £5 and production merchandise. The small space does make moving amongst the crowd difficult and the traffic slow moving, but everything is very well displayed.
Marble walls, arches, and columns make for a grand sight, and although a red carpet is not rolled out at your feet, it does line the entire building, making it feel like a special experience.
Palace Theatre is made up of five levels, which excluding the ground floor foyer all have their own bar and toilet facilities. Each level leads into the auditorium, which houses fourteen hundred seats. Choices include the stalls, dress circle, grand circle, and balcony.
I was in the balcony seats, which are £15. This makes going to the theatre for most people, even if on a low budget. The balcony does have some serious downsides, however. These include:
1. Four flights of stairs - not ideal for those with limited mobility, arthritis, or breathing problems.
2. Very high up and very steep - if you are afraid of heights, it is a no go zone.
3. Virtually no leg room - I'm short, and even my knees were killing me as I had no room to move or adjust them. The man next to me was very tall and his knees were up to his chest. I dread to think how uncomfortable he must have been.
4. Restricted view - the safety bar really does significantly block your view of the stage. You can't see anything right at the front or dead centre without perching on the edge of your seat and getting a bad back. The people who are two rows in front of you will obstruct things even further as all you get is a big view of their head.
If you can afford or manage to grab pricier tickets before they sell out, I highly recommend it. Despite the discomfort of the balcony, it does provide added aesthetic appreciation. From the balcony you can admire the incredible architectural artwork of the ceiling, panels, and box seats below. My favourite feature were the golden cherubs that were holding real working mini lanterns to provide extra light on the scene.
Nearing its hundred and twenty-sixth birthday, Palace Theatre has a long and interesting history. Designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt, it's commissioner, Richard D'Oyly Carte, originally named it the Royal English Opera House, as it was his intention to host grand operatic performances there. Its opening debut was with Arthur Sullivan's Ivanhoe, to be followed by La Basoche. But that was it. No more operas opened at the venue, and so in 1892, Carte sold the building at a loss to Walter Emden, who converted it into a music hall and renamed it the Palace Theatre of Varieties. It was not until 1911 that Palace Theatre became its final name, and during that time both musical performances and films were shown there. Now, having passed through eight owners, the venue's purpose as a place for out stand plays has been firmly established.
The most recent owners, Max Weitzenhoffer and Nica burns were handed the keys in 2012 by none other than Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, the genius behind Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Of course, no theatre is complete without its set of resident ghosts. Palace Theatre is said to be home to Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova (1881-1904), actor Ivor Novello (1893-1951), and former theatre manager Charles Morton (1819-1904).
Whether you are seeing a show or simply passing by, Palace Theatre can be enjoyed from both the inside and out.