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Theatres in Streatham, London

The Streatham Hill Theatre - The Astoria Theatre / Odeon Cinema

The Streatham Hill Theatre, 56-60 Streatham Hill

Formerly - The Streatham Hill Playhouse

The Streatham Hill Theatre during the run of 'Can-Can' on the 10th of September 1956 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

Above - The Streatham Hill Theatre during the run of 'Can-Can' on the 10th of September 1956 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

Tablet laid by Miss Evelyn Laye to commemorate the erection of the Streatham Hill Playhouse on the 6th of September 1928 - Photo Courtesy Mark Bennett.Work began on the building of the Streatham Hill Playhouse in 1928 and a Tablet was laid to commemorate the fact by Miss Evelyn Laye on September the 6th that year.

Right - The Tablet laid by Miss Evelyn Laye to commemorate the erection of the Streatham Hill Playhouse on the 6th of September 1928 - Photo Courtesy Mark Bennett.

Just over a year later the Theatre was finished. It was was designed by the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague along with W. H. Barton, and would in fact be Sprague's last Theatre to be built. The Streatham Hill Playhouse opened on the 18th November 1929 with a production of 'Wake Up and Dream'.

The Foyer of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.The Stage Newspaper reported on the new Theatre in their November the 21st 1929 edition saying:- 'The south side of the River has the unfortunately derelict Surrey, the Old Vic, once the Coburg, and the Elephant and Castle, which is under reconstruction; the Canterbury and the South London; also the Kennington and the Brixton, which are representatives of a younger generation. But with the exception of kinemas and dance halls the south side has had nothing new for many years. The Theatre on Streatham Hill provides south side suburbs with a playhouse of which they can be justly proud.

Right - The Foyer of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The intention of the management is to supply the public with the sort of attractions that have made the Hippodrome, Golders Green, a near relation to houses of the West End. Plays, musical comedies, revues, will be presented immediately prior to or after their West End runs.

The front of the theatre is dignified and imposing, the facade being supported by handsome white pillars in the Doric style, a style that is noticeable in many London theatres. The seating in the auditorium, for 3,000, is in three floors - stalls, circle, balcony, the two latter being approached by handsome roomy staircases. The seating itself has apparently been inspired by modern kinema construction, for it is roomy and comfortable...

The Foyer of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Foyer of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The Foyer of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Foyer of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The Auditorium Ceiling of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox....The upholstery is in a warm brown. There are eight Private boxes. The roof of the auditorium has a high glass dome 50 ft. in diameter, which is flooded with light from its interior. All lighting in the front of the house is on the concealed system. A feature is the rising and falling orchestra pit, another idea from the kinema.

Right - The Auditorium Ceiling of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

There are a fine entrance hall, foyers, and saloons. The numerous corridors are wide enough to do away with congestion. Comfort and a generous space are seen throughout the house, both in front and behind the curtain. The decorative scheme, which is as dignified as the exterior frontage, is in browns, old ivory, and gold...

The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

...Behind the curtain we find everything that modern engineering and architectural skill can give for efficiency. The stage, fitted with the three traditional traps - two star and one grave - is 85 ft. wide, 50 ft. deep, and 60 ft. high to the grid (see images below). The actual proscenium opening is 40 ft. by 30 ft., which gives ample room for the clearing of any cloth...

The Stage of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Stage of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

A photograph showing the Tannoy Speakers situated above the proscenium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Roger Fox.

Above - A photograph showing the Tannoy Speakers situated above the proscenium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Roger Fox who says 'This is a very special find. Tannoy were a locally based company in West Norwood and it is believed that this system was installed to allow the Theatre Manager to address the audience. See how they are blended into the plasterwork.'

The Pantomime Trap at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The Pantomime Trap at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox. Roger tells me that the Pantomime trap is still in full working order and that it is unusual in that there are no counterweights, nor any evidence that there has ever been any. The second trap is not roped and missing its platform, but the grave track is complete and has counterweights.

The drums and shafts for the two stage bridges at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - The drums and shafts for the two stage bridges at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

A Stage Lift at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Above - A Stage Lift at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The remains of the Flying Sytem on the Stage of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox....Flys are entirely done away with, all lines being worked from the stage - a system seen on a much smaller scale at the little Arts Theatre.

Right - The remains of the Flying Sytem on the Stage of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Particularly interesting is the switchboard, which occupies about half the space usually occupied by such apparatus in a first-class theatre. A copy of the one in the Roxy Theatre, New York, it is claimed to be the finest yet installed in any English theatre. It is possible, by means of a few small switches, set on a prearranged plan, to control the entire lighting of a production throughout its run.

The Stage Lantern Release Lever at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.Fireproof curtain and act drop are also electrically controlled, and can be raised or lowered by the pressing of a button. Mechanical contrivances also make the shifting of the heaviest machinery an easy matter.

Left - The Stage Lantern Release Lever at the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

The management's desire for the comfort of artists as well as audience is evidenced in the dressing-rooms and their approaches. These are on four floors, and are fairly uniform. Each is thickly carpeted, neatly decorated, and provided with hot and cold water. Yellow glass in the windows gives the soothing effect of diffused sunlight. The theatre, which is under the same control as Golders Green, has Mr. J. C. Clavering as chairman and Mr. J. W. Parry as resident manager.

The opening attraction is "Wake Up and Dream," and among the bookings are the Co-Optimists, Mdme. Pavlova and company, Miss Sybil Thorndike in "Madame Plays Nap," and the Covent Garden Opera company. The architects are Mr. W. G. Sprague and Mr. W. H. Barton.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Stage Newspaper, November 21st 1929.

The Streatham Hill Theatre, from a F. Frith & Co. Ltd. Postcard dated 12th February 1954

Above - The Streatham Hill Theatre, from a F. Frith & Co. Ltd. Postcard dated 12th February 1954.

Detail of The Streatham Hill Theatre, from a F. Frith & Co. Ltd. Postcard dated 12th February 1954The interior of the Streatham Hill Theatre, including the proscenium, was altered in 1934 and the new auditorium boasted two large cantilevered circles and a series of pretty curved fronted boxes on either side.

Right - The Streatham Hill Theatre, from a F. Frith & Co. Ltd. Postcard dated 12th February 1954.

On the 3rd July 1944 the Theatre was hit by a bomb which did considerable damage to the auditorium and part of the stage. One person was killed and several were injured. Nearby property was also damaged.

The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.Amazingly the Theatre was then rebuilt to the original designs in 1950.

Left - The Auditorium of the Streatham Hill Theatre in March 2017 - Courtesy Tim Hatcher and Roger Fox.

Sadly despite the 1950 rebuild by 1962 its life as a live Theatre was over and the building was altered for Bingo use. However, live performances did return to the Theatre for a while from July 2013 using small scale pop-up spaces in a site-specific promenade form with productions by the Streatham Theatre Company, although Bingo was still in operation right up until January 2017 when even that ended and the Theatre went completely dark.

At the time of writing, in April 2017 the building remains closed and unused, but it also remains intact and readily convertible back to live theatre use. The Theatre is one of the Country's greatest sleeping beauties and has a massive stage which could take most touring musicals.

The rear and side elevations of the Streatham Hill Theatre on the corner of Barrhill Road and Blairderry Road in July 2008 - Photo M.L.

Above - The rear and side elevations of the Streatham Hill Theatre on the corner of Barrhill Road and Blairderry Road in July 2008 - Photo M.L.

The Streatham Hill Theatre - A Retrospective

From a programme for the Theatre dated 13th January 1936

The Streatham Hill Theatre in 2008 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Streatham Hill Theatre in 2008 - Photo M.L.

Retrospective - From a programme for 'This'll Make You Whistle' at the Streatham Hill Theatre - 13th January 1936Looking back over 1935, the management of this theatre reviews with a pride which is surely justifiable, the great variety of first class attractions it has been possible to present to their patrons.

By adhering to the policy of securing West End successes with West End casts, and, on occasion, sponsoring first productions of plays which could be considered sufficiently important to warrant it, they have been able to provide theatrical fare of the very best, to suit every taste, from Shakespearean tragedy to musical comedy. During the past twelve months, nearly every star of theatreland has visited this theatre.

Programme for 'This'll Make You Whistle' at the Streatham Hill Theatre - 13th January 1936Here is a list selected at random from the file of programmes during 1935: Marie Tempest, who celebrated her fifty years' Jubilee on the stage; Jack Buchanan and Elsie Randolph, who also open up the 1936 season; Ivor Novello, appearing in his own plays; Lilian Braithwaite, Owen Nares, Fay Compton, Edna Best, Gladys Cooper, Raymond Massey, George Robey, Alice Delysia, Leslie Henson, Lupino Lane, George Graves, Laddie Cliff, Renee Houston, Binnie Hale, Edith Evans, John Gielgud, Marion Lorne, Gordon Harker, Godfrey Tearle, Marie Ney, Joseph Hislop, Irene Vanbrugh, Dorothy Dickson, Arthur Riscoe, Charlotte Greenwood, Hermione Baddeley, Flora Robson, Jeanne de Casalis and Vivian Leigh, the most glamorous newly discovered star of 1935.

Above - A Selection of 1950s / 60s Programme Covers for the Streatham Hill Theatre - Courtesy Martin Clark.

Programme for 'This'll Make You Whistle' at the Streatham Hill Theatre - 13th January 1936Programme for 'This'll Make You Whistle' at the Streatham Hill Theatre - 13th January 1936Of the productions which brought these brilliant personalities to this theatre, may be mentioned such musical comedies as "Mr. Whittington," "Yes, Madam?" and "Gay Deceivers"; such representatives of historical drama as "Clive of India" and "Viceroy Sarah"; examples of dramatic comedy in "Theatre Royal" and "Murder in Mayfair." J. B. Priestley supplied that fine play Eden End," and Gertrude Jennings her inimitable "Family Affairs."

Right - A Programme for 'This'll Make You Whistle' at the Streatham Hill Theatre - 13th January 1936

The classics were represented by John Gielgud's production of "Hamlet," unanimously acclaimed as unparalleled in our time. Sophisticated comedy found a place in "The Greeks had a Word for It," and the delightful "Mask of Virtue," and it was possible to secure for Streatham Hill Theatre the spectacular revues "Streamline" and "Stop Press," and the gigantic production of "Glamorous Night" from Drury Lane Theatre. Three productions which were first staged at this theatre "Twenty to One," "Vicky" and "Mary Tudor" were successfully launched in the West End.

Programme for 'Ruth Draper' at the Streatham Hill Theatre May 8th 1933Programme for 'Ruth Draper' at the Streatham Hill Theatre May 8th 1933The year, which was brought to such a happy conclusion with the first presentation of Jack Buchanan's new musical comedy, has convinced the management that the policy they have adopted is the most satisfactory for their patrons, and they trust that by continuing to give such support as that they have received throughout the past twelve months-for which they thank you-you will enable them to carry it out with equal success this year.

Right - A Programm for 'Ruth Draper' at the Streatham Hill Theatre May 8th 1933.

No other theatre has been able to offer its patrons so comprehensive a range of theatrical entertainment, and it is intended to extend this range still further in the next presentation, when Mr. Jack Buchanan leads the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, in a Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire.

The above 'Retrospective' is from a programme for the Streatham Hill Theatre dated the 13th of January 1936.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Astoria Theatre, 47-49 Streatham High Road, Streatham

Later - The Odeon Cinema

The former Astoria Theatre, Streatham, now the Odeon, in a photograph take in July 2008 - Photo M.L.

Above - The former Astoria Theatre, Streatham, now the Odeon, in a photograph take in July 2008 - Photo M.L.

The Odeon, Streatham was originally built by Edward Albert Stone as a Super Cinema with a single giant screen, and opened as the Astoria Theatre on the 30th of June 1930 with the Film 'Paris' and a huge Variety Show.

The Theatre was the third of four Astoria Theatres to be built in London for the independent film exhibitor, Arthur Segal, the first of which was the Astoria, Brixton, Segal then went on to build the Astoria, Old Kent Road, which has since been demolished; the Astoria in Streatham which is now an Odeon Cinema; and the Finsbury Park Astoria, which has since been converted into a church. Stone also built the former Astoria Theatre in Charing Cross Road and the Astoria, Brighton.

The exterior of this Astoria was in the modern style but the auditorium, which could seat some 2,614 people in comfort, was in an Egyptian style, although the ceiling was partly in the Atmospheric style, like the three other London Astorias by Segal. The Streatham Astoria interior was designed by Marc-Henri & G. Laverdet who also designed the other three auditoria as well.

The Theatre had a fully equipped Stage and Fly Tower, ample Dressing Rooms, a cafe, also in the Egyptian Style above the main entrance, and was fitted with a Compton 3 Manual 12 Rank theatre organ, which was inaugurated by Al Bollington.

Not long after it opened the Theatre was taken over by Paramount Pictures in December 1930, and just like the Finsbury Park Astoria, was taken over by Oscar Deutsch's Odeon Theatres Ltd in November 1939.

On the 2nd of September 1961, whilst under the ownership of the Rank Organisation, the Astoria was closed after the final showing of the Films 'Information Received,' and aptly 'The Last Sunset.' The Theatre was then subsequently modernised. This consisted of removing most of the original interior, although the auditorium ceiling was left in place.

The Theatre was then reopened on the 18th of September 1961 as the Odeon, Streatham, a name it retains to this day. The opening Film was 'No, My Darling Daughter' with Juliet Mills who was in attendance for the screening. The Theatre then continued as a Cinema with occasional stage use including Ballet, Pantomimes and Concerts right up until the final live performance there in December 1978 with a concert by Ian Drury.

In 1979 the Theatre closed down so that it could be tripled with a large screen in the former balcony for 1,095, and two smaller screens in the former rear stalls area which each held 267. In 1983 the original safety curtain for the Theatre was lowered for the last time and a new screen was built in front of it for the number 1 Cinema. The following year this main Cinema was later reduced in size again by installing a new screen where the old Balcony front used to be.

In 1991 a fourth Cinema was installed in the former front Stalls of the Theatre, seating 240 and then a fifth screen was built into the original stage of the Theatre seating 196.

In 2001 refurbishment work on the building was carried out and yet another two small Cinemas were installed in the building by fitting one into the former rear of the Circle and by splitting the front Stalls Cinema into two so that currently the Streatham Odeon has 8 screens. Very little of the original interior remains of this once vast Theatre which is now in use as a modern multiplex Cinema complex.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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