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Queen's Theatre

William George Robert Sprague

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(detail)8.10.1907 | opening

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(detail)William George Robert Sprague |main architect

It is perhaps not generally realized that almost all of London's superbly intimate turn-of-the-century playhouses were designed by one man; Sprague was the architect of Wyndham's (1899), the Albery (1903; see colour plate Vi), the Strand (1905), the Aldwych (1905), the Globe (1906), the Queen's (1907), the Ambassadors (1913) and the St Martin's (1916). He also designed several other theatres in the London area, most of which have been destroyed. The Coronet (1898), now the Gaumont Cinema in Netting Hill Gate, and the Camden (1901) in Camden Town still survive, though under threat of demolition. The Edward VII in Paris, though apparently extremely French, was also designed by Sprague.

 

In:  Glasstone, Victor: Victorian and Edwardian Theatres: An Architectural and Social Survey. Harvard 1975 p. 104

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The Queen's provides an extraordinary conglomeration of styles and elements: Italian Cinquecento (the order, pilasters and arches over the stage boxes and the frieze over the proscenium), Robert Adam (the balcony fronts), early Georgian (the acoustic cove above the proscenium), and Edwardian Baroque (the luscious ceiling). The plaster figure-work complicates the amalgam even further: the putti on the balcony fronts resemble Donatello's, while the abandoned Bacchantes on the abutments above the pilasters are Art Nouveau and the muscular creatures on the ceiling are as androgynous as the favourites of Michelangelo. Yet the entire composition works superbly. Particularly clever are the boxes set into the wall above the dress circle, filling the space which has resulted from good sectional planning; when this balcony is sufficiently raked to provide good sightlines, its back row would have its view cut if the second balcony were brought too low. In the Globe the side wall, often too dominant, is articulated with coupled columns interspersed with niches, doors, swags and cartouches. The Shaftesbury Avenue front of the Queen's was bady damaged during the war. In 1958 a new elevation and new front-of-house accommodation of quite painful banality were erected by Messrs Westwood, Sons and Partner, assisted by Sir Hugh Casson. Fortunately the auditorium remained more or less unscathed and was restored in red, gold and white.

 

In: Glasstone, Victor: Victorian and Edwardian Theatres: An Architectural and Social Survey. Harvard 1975 p. 111

 

 

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