The Epstein Theatre, Hanover Street, Liverpool
Formerly - The Crane Hall / Crane Theatre / Neptune Theatre
Above - A Google Streetview image of the Neptune Theatre, Liverpool, now the Epstein - Click to Interact.
The Epstein Theatre was built in 1911 and originally opened as a concert hall called the Crane Hall, sometimes known as Crane's Music Hall, in 1913. The space was incorporated into a five story building which was built for the Crane Brothers to house offices and a music shop. The Hall, which was above the music shop and reached by a long spiral staircase, was originally intended for musical recitals and had a small platform stage to the right of where the rear stalls entrance of the present Neptune Theatre is.
Above - A photograph of Crane & Sons Music Shop, Liverpool - Courtesy Patsy Sweetland, whose relative is posing in the doorway, although when she sent me the photo she was not sure who he was. A visitor to the site, Harold Faulkner, has since contacted me to say: 'The Gentleman in front of Crane Buildings is old George Crane. He was 93 when I worked there before the war. Once a week I took cheques into the boardroom for him to sign before he fell asleep, and his wife took him home.'
The Company later purchased the 130 year old building next door and set about converting it into a stage and fly tower so that the Concert Hall could be converted into a Theatre. The Theatre could seat 451 people and was used primarily as a home for amateur dramatics, although it occasionally housed professional productions too. Despite this the name Crane Hall remained until 1938 when it was renamed the Crane Theatre.
In 1967, after a period of risk and likely closure, the Theatre was bought from the Cranes by the Liverpool Corporation who wished to save the space for local people. The Theatre then closed in the summer of 1967 when £7,000 was spent on refurbishment and redecoration. A new apron stage was also constructed, with new entrances on either side. Front of House the bar was reconstructed so that it could also be used as an art gallery and buffet, and a lift was installed from street level. The Theatre reopened in September 1968 with a production of 'An Enemy of the People' under its new name of the Neptune Theatre, after the Roman God of the sea, due to Liverpool's long held maritime connections.
The following year the Theatre was further enhanced by refurbishing back stage, rewiring the whole building, and installing mechanical lifting gear for the safety curtain.
The Theatre closed in 2005 due to health and safety reasons and the intention was to refurbish the building and reopen it soon afterwards but legal problems then caused the Theatre to remain closed for the next 5 years. However, in October 2010 it was announced that work had begun on a £1m refurbishment of the Theatre with the intention of reopening it in 2011 as the Epstein Theatre, after Brian Epstein who had once worked in the Theatre.
By April 2011 refurbishment of the Theatre was completed and the first
production in the building was the BBC's radio 5 live broadcasts for
the Grand National. The Theatre is now awaiting to appoint an operator
for the building and then it will become fully up and running.
The Epstein Theatre is a Grade II listed building which can accommodate
445 people on two levels.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre you are willing to share please Contact me.
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