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The Playhouse Theatre, Williamson Square, Liverpool

Formerly - The Star Concert Hall / Star Music Hall / Star Theatre of Varieties / Liverpool Repertory Theatre

Introduction - The Star Music Hall - The Star Theatre - The Playhouse

Liverpool Index

A Google StreetView Image of the Playhouse Theatre, Williamson Square, Liverpool - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Playhouse Theatre, Williamson Square, Liverpool - Click to Interact

 

 

A programme, printed on silk, for the opening night of the Star Music Hall, Williamson Square, Liverpool on the 26th of December 1866 - Courtesy Carol Shone.The Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool's Williamson Square was first given this name in 1917 and is today the only surviving Victorian Theatre still in active Theatrical use in Merseyside.

The Theatre stands on part of the site of the former Star Music Hall which opened in 1866. The 'Star' name came from the fact that the Music Hall was itself built on the site of an even earlier Concert Hall, run by Jem Ward, called the Star Concert Hall, which was active in the mid 19th Century.

Right - A programme, printed on silk, for the opening night of the Star Music Hall, Williamson Square, Liverpool on the 26th of December 1866 - Courtesy Carol Shone.

In 1866 the Star Concert Hall was demolished and rebuilt to the designs of the Liverpool Architect Edward Davies taking a little over 5 months to complete. The Music Hall cost some £22,000 to construct and fit out, a considerable sum for the time. It could hold around 2,000 people when it first opened on the 26th of December 1866, and its semi circular auditorium was said to resemble that of the Oxford Theatre in London.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed here in 1871

The Star Music Hall was later reconstructed to the designs of Harry Percival in 1896, reopening as the Star Theatre of Varieties on Monday the 28th of December 1896 (See sketch and details of the Star Theatre below).

Externally the Playhouse Theatre of today is still that of Harry Percival's 1896 design although the interior has been altered several times. There is more information on the Playhouse itself below.

 

The Star Theatre

Sketch of the Star Theatre, Liverpool - From 'The Playgoer' of 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

Above - A Sketch of the Star Theatre, Liverpool - From 'The Playgoer' of 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

The ERA reported on the newly opened Star Theatre in their 2nd of January 1897 edition saying:- 'Almost entirely reconstructed, this place of amusement was reopened to the public on last Monday, under the auspices of the Liverpool Palace Company (Limited), and although the work is very far from being finished a good idea of the "reformation " scheme was furnished. The reconstruction plan has been carried out with earnestness and zeal, and the new hall, following upon one which was thirty-three years old, will bring the establishment up to the tastes of modern amusement patrons.

Sketch of the Stage, Procenium, and Boxes of the Star Theatre, Liverpool - From 'The Playgoer' of 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.An imposing vestibule entrance now opens into Williamson-square, with box-offices admitting to the better parts of the house. From this vestibule there are two corridors leading to the stalls and two staircases to the circle. There are two entrances to the pit, one in Houghton-street, and the other in Williamson-square, while to the gallery two staircases lead from the front of the building.

Left - A Sketch of the Stage, Proscenium, and Boxes of the Star Theatre, Liverpool - From 'The Playgoer' of 1901 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

The gallery, which will seat 800 people, forms a semi-circle from the stage. In front of the gallery is an amphitheatre with two rows of cushioned tip-up chairs. The circle is similar in design, and has a large foyer in the rear, from which an uninterrupted view of the stage is obtained from every point.

The pit and stalls form the ground floor, and the seating throughout consists of richly upholstered tip-up chairs of modern design. The orchestra stalls are upholstered in rich old-gold plush, and the same material has been used for the front of the circle, in which the chairs are covered with ruby plush. The pit is upholstered in red repp. The ten private boxes are arranged on either side between the circle and the stage. The theatre is carpeted throughout except in the gallery.

A great improvement has been made upon the stage, and there is now sufficient accommodation for the most ample display of novelties. The stage itself has been lowered. The proscenium opening is fitted with a counter-balanced iron fireproof curtain raised and lowered from the flies. The floors and fronts of the boxes are fireproof so that in case of an outbreak of fire on the stage, it would have to travel a distance of twenty-five feet before the flames could reach either the circle or the gallery - an almost impossible contingency. The orchestra is sunk beneath the stalls floor, only the leader being visible from the auditorium...

A plethora of Advertisements posted on a Liverpool building shows one for 'The Love of the Princess' at the Star Theatre, Liverpool - Courtesy Roy Cross.

Above - A plethora of Advertisements posted on a Liverpool building shows one for 'The Love of the Princess' at the Star Theatre, Liverpool - Courtesy Roy Cross.

...The building is heated throughout with hot water, but an even temperature is maintained by means of a system of lattice work in the ceiling, the gallery being as cool and comfortable as the pit. All the scenery has been painted by Mr R. Lloyd, the well-known, scenic artist of London, and the new stage is of sufficient height to admit of the cloth being raised in one piece, instead of being rolled, as is frequently the case.

Behind the stage, most comfortable dressing-rooms have been provided for the artists. In the building there are five bars. The stall foyer is just underneath the pit; behind the pit there is a refreshment bar; there is another behind the gallery; and at the rear of the dress circle another is provided. The theatre throughout is lighted with electricity, and the stage battens are fitted with both electricity and gas. A complete system of hydrants and fire extinguishing apparatus have been arranged all over, and in each section of the building is lavatory accommodation for both sexes. The staircases are all fireproof, and in case of emergency a dual system of lighting is available.

The entire work of reconstruction and renovation has occupied eighteen weeks, but, of course, a considerable amount of decoration and finishing has yet to be done before the premises are completed. The architect who has had charge of the alterations is Mr Harry Percival.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 2nd January 1897.

 

The Playhouse Theatre

The Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool from 'The Liverpool Repertory Theatre' by Grace Wyndham Goldie 1935.

Above - The Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool from 'The Liverpool Repertory Theatre'
by Grace Wyndham Goldie 1935.

Liverpool's Daily Post pullout souvenir for the Jubilee of the Playhouse Theatre on Saturday November the 4th 1961, 50 years after the founding of the Liverpool Repertory Company at the Theatre. - Click to see the entire souvenir.In 1911 the Theatre was renamed the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, when the auditorium was altered and a new bar was created out of a former beer cellar.

The Theatre was renamed yet again in 1917 when it became the Liverpool Playhouse, the name it retains to this day.

Right - Liverpool's Daily Post pullout souvenir for the Jubilee of the Playhouse Theatre on Saturday November the 4th 1961, 50 years after the founding of the Liverpool Repertory Company at the Theatre. - Click to see the entire souvenir.

Subsequent alterations have included an extension to the building to house a paintframe and workshop from a former cafe next door in 1961, the stage and dressing rooms were enlarged in 1966, and in 1968 a glass tower was built to accommodate a new entrance and booking office for the Theatre and a restaurant.

The Playhouse is today the only surviving Victorian Theatre still in active Theatrical use in Merseyside and is Grade II listed. The Auditorium, built on three levels, still retains much of its 1911 structure and plasterwork (See photographs below).

 

The auditorium and stage of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

Above - The auditorium and stage of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

The auditorium and stage of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

Above - The auditorium and stage of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

The auditorium of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

Above - The auditorium of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

The auditorium and stage of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

Above - The auditorium and stage of the Liverpool Playhouse in 2013 - Courtesy K.R.

 

Programme for 'Alice in Wonderland' at the Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool in December 1946.The Playhouse Theatre is today run in conjunction with the Everyman Theatre in Hope Street.

You may like to visit the Playhouse and Everyman Theatres' own website here.

Right - A Programme for 'Alice in Wonderland' at the Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool in December 1946.

Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Star Music Hall in 1871, and his Grandson Robert George Lloyd, my father, was born in Liverpool in 1911, the year the Liverpool Repertory Company was formed.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were kindly collated and sent in for inclusion by B.F.