name = Hackney Empire
caption = Hackney Empire
address = Mare Street
city = Hackney,
designation = Grade II*
latitude = 51.5455
longitude = -0.0555
owner = Hackney Empire Trust
capacity = 1500 seated
type = former
opened = 1901
rebuilt = 2004 Tim Ronalds Architects
closed = 1956-1962 Television studio 1963-1986 bingo hall
production = Visiting productions
website = www.hackneyempire.co.ukThe Hackney Empire is a theatre on Mare Street, in the
London Borough of Hackney, built in 1901 as a music hall.
Hackney Empire is a
grade II* listed building. The theatre was built as a music hall in 1901, designed by the architect Frank Matcham. Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stan Laureland Marie Lloydall performed there, when the Hackney Empire was a music hall.
ATV bought the theatre to use as studios in the 1950s, and shows such as "
Take Your Pick" and "Oh, Boy!" were broadcast live from the venue. Some scenes from " Emergency - Ward 10" were also filmed there. From 1963 to 1984 the theatre was used by the Mecca Organisation as a bingo hall.
When, in 1984 Mecca found the building too expensive to maintain as a bingo hall, it was offered to C.A.S.T, a satirical touring theatre group, headed by Claire and Roland Muldoon, as a London base. Not only was it used by them, it also mounted successful variety nights headlined by a new breed of
alternative comedyacts, such as Ben Elton, Dawn French, and Jennifer Saunders.
The theatre was threatened with demolition, and in 1986, the actor-manager Roland Muldoon mounted a campaign to acquire the freehold and to re-open the Hackney Empire as a permanent performance space.
Ralph Fiennesplayed Hamlet to Francesca Annis's Gertrude in Jonathan Kent's Almeida TheatreCompany production of " Hamlet", 28 February-30 March 1995; the production also transferred to the Belasco Theatrein New York.
Muldoon retired in 2005 and was replaced by Simon Thomsett as Chief Executive.
Hackney Empire was a leading centre in the alternative comedy boom of the 1980s -
Ben Elton, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steel, Arthur Smith, Jo Brand, Harry Hill, Paul Merton, Harry Enfield, Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Russell Brand, Martha Lewis and Eve Polycarpo have all performed there, amongst many others.
Arthur Smith hosts the important annual
Hackney Empire New Act of the Yearcompetition for up and coming stand-up comedy talent.
In 2001, the Empire closed for a £17 million refurbishment project designed by Tim Ronalds Architects, and reopened in 2004 - returned to theatrical use on its 85th birthday. The restoration includes a 60-seat orchestra pit, to make the Empire suitable for opera performance, by companies such as
English Touring Opera. Other new facilities include a studio theatre, educational and hospitality facilities; as well as incorporating the former "Marie Lloyd" public house within the new extension. There are also purpose-built dressing rooms, replacing the original primitive facilities. In addition to Muldoon, the comedian Griff Rhys Jonesled the restoration appeal, with a large donation coming from local businessman Sir Alan Sugar. It has produced an enormously successful and highly regarded "panto" since the beginning of the current millennium.
Griff Rhys Jones
Sir Alan Sugar
The area is well served by buses to all parts of London; the nearest station is Hackney Central on the
North London Line.
* "Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950", John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 114 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
* [http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk/ Hackney Empire official site]
* [http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk/stories/rhys-jones_hackney/rhys-jones_hackney02.html Art and Architecture] Hackney Empire.
*IoEentry|424483|Images of England - photograph and details from listed building text
* [http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/HackneyEmpireTheatre.htm History of the Hackney Empire with Archive Images]
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