North End Road,
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Located in north-west London, adjacent to both Golders Green tube(Underground) railway station and the bus station. The Golders Green Hippodrome Theatre opened on 26th December 1913. Designed by noted theatre architect Bertie Crewe, it had 2,245 seats which were located for 1,013 in the stalls, 564 in the circle and 668 in the upper circle.
An unusual feature of the auditorium were the stage boxes on each side of the proscenium, where the two on the upper circle level faced into the audience rather than the stage, making them virtually useless regarding sightlines. On top of the boxes are sculptors of lions drawing chariots. The proscenium is 37 feet wide and the stage is 30 feet deep. Another unusual feature was the lack of a full fly tower on the stage.
Initially used as a music hall/variety theatre, by around 1923, it was mainly presenting straight drama plays and comedies. The Hippodrome Theatre was built equipped with a projection box, that enabled occasional film performances to be held. In the early-1930’s, the Hippodrome Theatre was equipped for sound films, although again, this was for occasional performances usually on a Sunday, when live performances were not allowed.
It remained a No 1 London suburban theatre for many years, and was always independently operated. It became famous as being a try-out theatre for productions prior to their London West End debut. Immediately after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, it launched a touring production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest” starring John Gielgud and Edith Evans, with others in the cast being Peggy Ashcroft, Margaret Rutherford and Jack Hawkins. The final stage show was performed at the Golders Green Hippodrome Theatre on 17th February 1968.
The lease on the building was purchased by the BBC and it was converted into a television studio from 1969. In 1972, the BBC converted it into a radio concert hall, and it became the BBC Concert Hall. The audience were seating in the rear stalls and the circle, with the upper circle closed and partitioned off. The BBC Concert Orchestra made the theatre their home and for many years the popular ‘Friday Night is Music Night’ programme was broadcast live, in front of a live audience.
The ageing theatre was beginning to need urgent repairs and the BBC placed the lease of the building for sale in September 2005. An orthodox Jewish group were interested to convert the building into a place of worship and another bid came from a company who wanted to use the venue for IT and media purposes. Both bids failed as the planning applications at that time stipulated the building should be retained for entertainment use. The BBC moved out of the theatre in December 2005 and it remained empty and unused until March 2007 when it was purchased by the Bradford based El-Shaddai International Christian Centre. A condition of the sale was that some live entertainment should be provided.
The Hippodrome Theatre is a Grade II Listed building.
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