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Gaiety Theatre

Frank Matcham

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(detail)1900 | opening

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History

The Gaiety was a reconstruction by Matcham, in 1900, of the former Marina photograph of Pavillon (1893, by W.J. Rennison), and has survived remarkably intact as an excellent example of his music hall manner.

The prominently sited symmetrical, stuccoed facade is in a lively debased classical style, entirely appropriate to its function as a venue for seaside entertainment. Three-storey towers flank a two-storey centre, with a recessed columned balcony at first floor level under a curved gable. Another curved gable crowns the rear wall of the auditorium at a higher level behind. The auditorium shows Matcham’s skill in adapting the relatively narrow shell of the old Pavilion music hall. The balcony fronts are set well back and continue along the side walls. At first balcony level there are three bow-fronted boxes on either side, each with an elaborate plaster half-domed canopy. This is similar to the scheme Matcham adopted when converting another narrow music hall, the former Day's Crystal Palace, Birmingham, into the Birmingham Empire.

Ornamental niches flank the proscenium which is set with in a segmentally-arched frame with a painted tympanum. The painted act drop, depicting an oriental scene, is a rare survival. The magnificent ceiling has painted panels representing the four seasons. The balcony and box fronts, proscenium and ceiling are richly encrusted with superbly fluid gilded Baroque plasterwork.

The theatre is now owned by the Manx Government. In 1979/80 it was sympathetically refurbished (consultant: Victor Glasstone), including the reinstatement of elaborate draperies to the proscenium and boxes - an essential feature of any thorough restoration, yet often sadly overlooked (the London Coliseum appears particularly naked).

 

In: WALKER, Brian Mercer. Frank Matcham: theatre architect. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, c1980, xii, 178 p. ISBN 08-564-0231-1.  137 - 138

 

 

Author: Brian Mercer Walker

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