Building Control for London Theatres
Delfont Mackintosh Theatre Group
One of RBCs clients that use us to provide the full building control service for alterations to their theatres is the Delfont Mackintosh Theatre Group and this includes the following theatres, Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, Queens, Wyndham, Noel Coward, Sondheim (Ambassadors) and Gielgud and now the Victoria Palace Theatre. We have covered the building work in most of these Theatres, some of it of a minor nature, but other work has been involved with much larger theatre projects.
In addition RBC has also been employed in an advisory capacity because of the delicate nature and listed status of most of these historic buildings. For example RBC is a member of the Delfont fire door and fire advisory committee, which in particular advises on fire doors and fire protection to these valuable buildings. This is the only time I have come across a one hundred year old curved fire door which consequentially English Heritage would not permit any alterations or upgrading to its surface. The answer was to make alterations to the door edges that could not easily be seen, such as smoke seals and to provide additional fire protection to the Theatre that was more out of the line of sight.
The work on all these theatres is interesting even if the scope of work is sometimes limited. For example most of the theatres have a VIP room and although relatively small they often have a small private bar and are usually named after a celebrity. In the Prince Edward Theatre for example the VIP room is called the Julie Andrews Room and the new work here was to provide a single additional toilet. An interesting observation is that the walls are surrounded with pictures of Julie Andrews’ performances dating back to an early black and white picture taken in 1955 when she performed in a pantomime.
A current project at the Prince Edward Theatre is to convert a previous M&E plant area at the top of the building into three offices. Two existing rooms at this level are also being converted and upgraded for staff use however the alternative escape route from this area is across the roof which meant that this also had to be improved to make it safe.
Victoria Palace Theatre
The latest acquisition for the Delfont Group is the Victoria Palace Theatre which is a Grade 2 listed building originally built in 1911, this placed some restraints on the development work but these problems were all overcome. Anna Pavlova the Russian ballet dancer danced at the Theatre in the early twentieth century and there is still a gilded statue of Pavlova above the cupola of the Theatre.
The Victoria Palace closed to the public after the last performance of Billy Elliot on Saturday 9th April 2016 and opened to the first public performance of the Broadway musical, Hamilton on Thursday December 21st 2017. Hamilton is a musical production about the birth of America with a special performance by ‘King George of England’, Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of America. RBC was given two special invitation tickets to the Gala performance on 20th December in recognition of their work as the Building Control Body for the project
The work to the Theatre mainly consisted of demolition of a previous rear extension and roof enclosure, the erection of an eight storey fly tower, and provision for a new extension at the rear. Also included were extensions and alterations to the East side of the building, a new roof enclosure, a new stage pit, new M&E plant, windows and entrance doors. Internal alterations included new seating, new dressing rooms, other back of house areas and a larger stage which included an extension of the proscenium arch.
One of the complications was that the right hand side of the Theatre and the new stage extension was built over the still- active 200 year old brick-built sewer which was fully operational and had to be fully protected structurally from any additional loading as a consequence of the new construction.
The original Architect for the Theatre was Frank Matcham and there is a plaque outside the Theatre to commemorate him. I have mentioned VIP rooms in theatres and the VIP room for the Victoria Palace has been changed from the Tudor room to the Matcham room. The stage can be further extended for future productions because there is a 6m gap at the rear of the stage to permit this, at present this is fully fire separated and protected from the stage area.
RBC has worked closely with the Architects for the new project who are part of the Aedas Arts team. We have provided guidance on all aspects of the Building Regulations including fire and access issues and in particular we have endeavoured to help overcome listed building constraints.