Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Berwick Playhouse – originally a beautiful theatre opened in 1914 – is due for demolition next month. It’s been closed since 2005, and in the last six years has slowly begun to demolish itself.
Original photos show a rather grand building, with detailed plasterwork on the exterior, but all the plasterwork was cleared away years ago and replaced with an uninspired but no doubt practical render.
Like most people who have lived in Berwick for some time, I have very good memories of going to see films at the Playhouse. Spittal Variety Group, who regularly perform at The Maltings, used the Playhouse for all their productions for many, many years.
We were given the go-ahead recently to investigate the Playhouse to see if there were any items which The Maltings would like or which would be of some use to us.
So this morning, a small but intrepid band descended and had a look around for anything that could be saved from the demolition – for items that might give some continuity between the old and new theatres in the town.
|A Spittal Variety Group Pantomime in 1974 on The Playhouse stage.|
It’s terribly sad to see a theatre on its last legs. So our visit was not a high-spirited one, but more about seeing what could be saved – and marvelling at this once-beautiful building, now destined to disappear.
There have been a number of theatres in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The Playhouse, Ceaser’s Palace, the Berwick Theatre – and now there’s just one. Almost all the great public buildings of the town are now flats – part of the relentless drive towards a future of individualism, where presumably we all sit in white boxes watching DVDs by ourselves. Nice.
So we donned hard hats and facemasks, and found a lot of dead pigeons, dust, mould and rubble. Plus three 1940s era projectors and some small items which had been missed when the building was stripped. You can see the biggest projector we salvaged on permanent display on the stairwell at The Maltings already – it was removed from The Playhouse at 1.30pm in three sections and installed at The Maltings at 1.50pm. It was very, very heavy.
|Relief plasterwork in the foyer of The Playhouse at stalls level.|
|The foyer at The Playhouse, looking past box office to the stairs to stalls level.|
|An emergency exit from the stalls.
|Looking from the stage up the flytower to the grid – and past it, to the sky.|
|At the rear of the stalls, this is what remains of the bar. Unusually, this bar was actually open to the stalls, possibly during performances? The sign reads: ‘Please do not occupy seats or smoke in the bar during the show.’|
|[John T says: “The control buttons on the wall in the projection box were used to alter the maskings on the screen for the different film formats the 3 slides hanging up were used to do this on the projector” Thanks John!]|
|The old powerboard in the projection room.
[John T tells us: “ The large wheel on the power board is the dimmer for the house lights that were in before that false celling was put in.” Thanks John.]
|This beautiful 1940s projector is now on display at The Maltings Theatre. It’s nice that it has found a new home.|