Hackney Empire is a theatre on Mare Street, in the
of Hackney, built in 1901 as a music hall.
2 Stand-up comedy
3 Modern times
7 External links
Hackney Empire is a grade II* listed building. The theatre was built
as a music hall in 1901, designed by the architect Frank Matcham.
Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stanley Holloway,
Stan Laurel and Marie
Lloyd all performed there, when the
Hackney Empire was a music hall.
ATV bought the theatre to use as studios in the 1950s, and shows such
Take Your Pick
Take Your Pick and Oh, Boy! were broadcast live. Certain episodes
of Opportunity Knocks were also filmed at the theatre. Some scenes
Emergency - Ward 10 were also filmed there. From 1963 to 1984 the
theatre was used by the Mecca Organisation as a bingo hall.
In 1984, Mecca found the building too expensive to maintain as a bingo
hall, and it was offered to C.A.S.T, a satirical touring theatre
group, headed by Claire and Roland Muldoon, as a
London base. They
also mounted successful variety nights headlined by a new breed of
alternative comedy acts, such as Ben Elton, Dawn French, and Jennifer
The theatre was threatened with demolition, and in 1986, actor-manager
Roland Muldoon mounted a campaign to acquire the freehold and to
Hackney Empire as a permanent performance space; allowing
the theatre to return to theatrical use for its 85th anniversary.
Ralph Fiennes played
Hamlet to Francesca Annis's Gertrude in Jonathan
Almeida Theatre Company production of Hamlet, 28 February –
30 March 1995; the production also transferred to the Belasco Theatre
in New York City.
Muldoon retired in 2005 and was replaced by Simon Thomsett as chief
On 24 September 2009, it was announced that the theatre would close
temporarily following its 2009 pantomime to allow a "period of
reflection" to consider its future direction and financial
Hackney Empire was a leading centre in the alternative comedy boom of
the 1980s – Frankie Boyle, Jack Whitehall, Jo Brand, Russell Brand,
John Cleese, Jackie Clune, Greg Davies, Felix Dexter, Ben Elton, Harry
Enfield, Craig Ferguson, Dawn French, Jeremy Hardy, Lenny Henry, Bill
Hicks, Harry Hill, Mark Linn-Baker, Martha Lewis and Eve Polycarpo,
Paul Merton, Jennifer Saunders, Arthur Smith,
Mark Steel and Tim Vine
are just some of the comedians who have performed there.
Hackney Empire built in 1901, retains the original
structure, but adds modern facilities (Sept 2005)
In 2001, the Empire closed for a £17 million refurbishment project
designed by Tim Ronalds Architects with Carr and Angier acting as
theatre consultants. It was reopened in 2004. The restoration
included the addition of a 60-seat orchestra pit to make the Empire
suitable for opera performance by companies such as English Touring
Opera, the addition of a flytower with provision for counterweight
flying and a reduction of the stage rake from 1 in 24 to 1 in 30.
Among other new facilities were a studio theatre and educational and
hospitality facilities, and greatly improved dressing rooms.
Marie Lloyd public house was incorporated into the
new extension. In addition to Muldoon, the comedian Griff Rhys Jones
led the restoration appeal, with a large donation coming from local
businessman Alan Sugar. It has produced an enormously successful and
highly regarded panto since 1988.
The John Bishop Show was presented
and recorded at the Hackney Empire, and has aired on BBC One, 30 May
2015 – 18 July 2015. Since 2014
The British Soap Awards have also
been filmed at the Hackney Empire.
Harold Pinter (dead)
Griff Rhys Jones
Lord Alan Sugar
The area is served by buses to some parts of London; the nearest
Hackney Central on the North
London Line. However there is
no Tube station within miles and the local Council imposes parking
fees until well in the evening.
^ Nosheen Iqbal, "London's
Hackney Empire theatre to close", The
Guardian, 24 September 2009.
^ "Theatres & Arts Complexes", Carr & Angier.
^ John Bishop Show on
BBC One – At the Hackney Empire
History of the
Hackney Empire with archive images
Hackney Empire Playbill Posters from the University of
East London's Theatre Archive
Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950, John Earl and Michael Sell
pp. 114 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
Griff Rhys Jones
Griff Rhys Jones –
Hackney Empire – Art and Architecture
Historic England. "Photograph and details from listed building text
(424483)". Images of England.
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