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About David Garratt

 

David Garratt has researched and written a number of informative and interesting articles on various Theatres for this site and has been a great help in filling in some of the gaps which were previously all too evident, such as Theatres in Leicester and Oxford. His enthusiasm for Theatre buildings and their use is evident from his articles and I am very happy to add a short Biography here, written by David, so that you can read a little bit of background on him. M. L. 2011.

 

A Biography of David Garratt

David GarrattI was born in Leicester in 1945. My Interest in the theatre began from being taken to the local Palace Theatre, the Theatre Royal, and the Royal Opera House to see pantomimes as a child. The theatre fascinated me, and after seeing these pantomimes, I would recreate the stage and scenery by making model theatres from cardboard boxes. We had a friend who was in the Leicester Fire Brigade, and often was duty fire officer on stage during performances at the local theatres. He knew of my fascination and arranged for me to visit the newly re-opened Royal Opera House, Leicester in 1960, to go backstage with him whilst the evening performance was taking place. I can remember this occasion as though it was yesterday. The show that week was 'Pretty as Paint' a musical featuring Jimmy Perry (of Dad's Army Fame) and his wife Gilda Perry. The theatre had been closed for five years and I can remember going into the prop room on stage right, which hadn't been touched for years. There was a cheese sandwich left on the prop table which had an enormous growth of mould on it, and we could not go onto the stage right fly rail as it was dangerous. The fly rail stage left, prompt side, was still OK and operational. Funny the things we remember. I was well and truly hooked, and knew that I wanted to work behind the scenes. This led to me joining local amateur operatic groups where I painted scenery (I was good at art) and learnt the art of stage management. I then joined the Leicester Drama Society at the Little Theatre, again on the technical side, and eventually stage managed plays, finally becoming a senior stage manager there.

A photograph of one of David Garratt's model Theatre designs

Above - A photograph of one of David Garratt's model Theatre designs - David says: 'This is of the Granville Theatre, Waltham Green, London. A Frank Matcham theatre, long ago demolished, but it was the sudden demolition of this theatre that really brought into force the Theatres Trust. I drew this and painted it from photographs of the auditorium.'

 

A photograph of one of David Garratt's model Theatre designsI also designed and painted sets for local amateur Operatic Societies, and to date have designed and painted 43 pantomimes. I eventually moved into directing Pantomimes and Musicals. I would visit the professional theatre when ever possible both locally, Nottingham Theatre Royal, Birmingham, Coventry, and the West End. I have taken the Stage Newspaper ever week since I was 16 years old, keeping up with all the professional news.

Right - A photograph of one of David Garratt's model Theatre designs. David says: 'This toy theatre proscenium is of Leicester's Palace theatre, drawn and painted from photographs of the auditorium. This has an oriental elephant act drop.'

I read an advert for the Frank Matcham Society and joined early on just after Arthur Starkie had set up the society and was looking for regional representatives. As a result I became their first archivist, which I did for several years until the archives moved down to London a few years ago. I am proud to still be a member of the Society and am also a member of the British Music Hall Society, and the Theatres Trust. I have visited many theatres backstage and front of house both with the Frank Matcham Society and privately, photographing them both inside and out. I am an avid collector and reader of anything to do with theatre, particularly Victorian and Edwardian theatres. This led me into the realms of research, which I find fascinating, digging out long lost history and details.

 

A photograph of one of David Garratt's model Theatre designs.After Leicester lost its professional theatres in the 1960's I started to collect programmes, posters, press cuttings and photographs of Leicester's lost theatres, and still do, building a vast collection.

I also gave talks to local groups on Leicester's lost theatres, and have visited and interviewed many of the people who worked in these local professional theatres, recording our conversations. Their stories and anecdotes are fascinating

Now retired, I still make model theatres, the penny plain tuppence coloured type, of existing and lost theatres, together with the scenery to fit them.

Left - A photograph of one of David Garratt's model Theatre designs. David says: 'This photo is of a chinese proscenium front with a willow pattern plate act drop loosley based upon the Grand Theatre Clapham.'

To me, there is nothing like the excitement I get from just sitting in a Matcham or Sprague auditorium. Just marvelling at their ornate interiors, the cleverness of their design, and how they were able to use so effectively every scrap of space, often on very cramped sites. I just love theatres, the buildings, their smell and atmosphere, their excitement, their history, and what stories they can, and do tell us, if we dig into their past.

This article and its accompanying images are Courtesy and © David Garratt 2011.

 

You may find the following pages from this site of interest: