The Society paid another visit to the theatre at Alexandra Palace. Back in 2015 hard hats and fluorescent jackets were in order, but we were given a tour of this refurbished Grade I building now that it is fully operational.
The cost of the restoration has been £30 million, met with money from the National Lottery, Haringey Council and individual donors (and more is needed to complete the work - you can find out more here). The architects were Fielden Clegg Bradley and the main construction was done by Willmott Dixon.
The original theatre was built with a capacity of 3,000, with two balconies and a steeply raked 'pit'. The refurb has removed the upper circle, levelled the ground floor seating and incorporated a more flexible seating model to give a capacity of between 900 and 1300 depending on whether the space is being used for theatre, coporate events or stand-up comedy. Earlier incarnations of the theatre all struggled, so this flexibility of use is a key part of trying to ensure the theatre can pay its way. FCB also remodeled the entrance and foyer space to make access and exits easier, and put in underfloor heating and natural ventilation.
What is particularly captivating within the theatre is that it has been left in "arrested decay"; the wonderful Victorian plasterwork is still there to see, not restored and pristine, but preserved as it was before restoration. This, plus the large amount of exposed brickwork, creates a strange dualism - this is a "working ruin", where the vibrancy of the reborn theatre still pays homage to its lost heritage.
There is lots more that the Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust wishes to do. There is an early (1909!) cinema projection box that remains untouched, and the Victorian stage machinery is still all in place and waiting to be restored, so to help, please visit the Trust's website here.