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The following books and magazines are highly recommended for anyone interested in Theatre architecture and the history of Theatres and Music Halls, past and present.


The Theatres Trust Guide to British Theatres

Click here to buy this book at Amazon.co.uk
Please note that I have been generously granted permission to use some extracts from the indispensable book 'The Theatres Trust Guide To British Theatres 1750 -1950, John Earl & Michael Sell',on this website. However, these extracts are copyright and should not be further re-produced without the express permission of the Publishers.The book is available from the publishers, A&C Black (tel 01480 212666).

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


British Theatres and Music Halls

Click here to buy this book at Amazon.co.ukThis book outlines the history of theatres and music halls from the late sixteenth century to the present time, noting changing fashions in entertainment and evolving official attitudes to safety that have, at various times, influenced the architectural character of the buildings. Particular attention is given to the thirty-five years before the First World War, when music hall and variety entertainment developed rapidly, accompanied by a masive surge in theatre building. The account is enlivened with illustrations of theatres, their architects and their audiences.

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


The Other National Theatre by Robert Whelan

The Other National Theatre by Robert Whelan  - Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.Robert Whelan has very kindly sent me a copy of his wonderful book on the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and it has already proved to be incredibly useful and informative resource, let alone an entertaining read. With over 500 pages it covers the complete history of this world famous Theatre, from its earliest incarnation in 1663 to today, and is meticulously well researched and handsomely illustrated. The back cover says it all:-

'The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, is a remarkable place. It's Nell Gwynne in The Conquest of Granada and Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady; it's the china scene in The Country Wife and the screen scene in The School for Scandal; it's David Garrick as Richard III and Carlo the dog jumping into a tank of water in The Caravan; it's Dora Jordan showing her legs in As You Like It and Ivor Novello showing his profile in Glamorous Night; Madame Vestris dragged up as Don Giovanni and Dan Leno dragged up as Mother Goose; Grimaldi falling through a trapdoor and fracturing his collarbone and Edmund Kean delaying the curtain for Venice Preserv'd because 'I always take a shag before the play begins'; Isaac Van Amburgh's lions and the first production in English of The Magic Flute; it's pantomimes with 500 people on the stage and the first British performance of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde; it's horses running the Derby, the Two Thousand Guineas and Ben Hur's chariot race; it's The Bohemian Girl and Miss Saigon; 'Rule Britannia' and 'O'l' Man River'. It's the theatre where Aaron Hill was locked out by rebellious actors, where actors led by the rebellious Theophilus Cibber were locked out by the management and where Sheridan was locked in until he completed The Critic; where Sarah Siddons made George III cry and Ivor Novello made Queen Mary cry. It's the theatre where Shakespeare spelt ruin and Byron bankruptcy, but managers still put them on because it might just work this time. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, was regarded as the National Theatre for hundreds of years before there was such an institution. It gets no money from the government, it does eight shows a week, and you might get a ticket if you turn up tonight.'

If you want to know anything about the last 350 years of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, then in my opinion this is a great place to start. As easy to read as it is entertaining and informative, from a writer who really loves his subject, highly recommended. The book was first published by Jacob Tonson in 2013, more details can be found here.

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley, by Robert V. Kenny

The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley, by Robert V. Kenny - Click to  buy the book at Amazon.co.ukDuring the 1930s and 40s, Arthur Lucan and his wife Kitty McShane were among the highest-paid and most admired variety artistes in Britain. They packed theatres throughout the land, and made a series of zany films with Arthur as the washerwoman Old Mother Riley, and Kitty as her daughter. But fame and fortune went to Kitty’s head, and offstage she made Arthur’s life hell; he died - in costume - in May 1954, one week before he was due to appear in court as a bankrupt.

The story of the tears behind the Lucans’ onstage laughter is told here in greater detail than hitherto, demolishing legends, re-assessing the comic genius of Arthur, and revealing the sadness of alcoholic Kitty, who lies today in a forgotten, unmarked grave. 428pp, 19 illustrations.

Publisher: BearManor Media, Albany, USA
ISBN-10: 1593937717
ISBN-13: 978-1593937713

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk

Visit Robert's Arthur Lucan Facebook page.


A Cockney at Work. The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs, by Peter Norris

A Cockney at Work. The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs, by Peter Norris. A substantial study of Gus Elen has been long overdue, and a void in the history of music hall has at last been filled. A Cockney at Work. The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs, by Peter Norris reminds us of the performer's significance.

Often, old time music hall material is too readily branded as 'social comment', when much of it was straightforward entertainment, but when we turn to Gus Elen we need have no misgivings. He delivered many of his songs in a heavily satirical mood of class awareness through the voice of his cockney characters, and his extraordinary talent set him apart as a glittering star.

The book reveals much about Gus Elen's private life, which he guarded from the public gaze, and sets this in the context of the developing music hall. Particular attention is paid to his work, and explanations are given of many of his cockney song lyrics, which humorously reflect events in the broader society. To add to the enjoyment of this aspect of the story, the book comes with a specially produced CD of the singer's original recordings, with tracks arranged in the same order that they are referred to.

The British Music Hall Society's review suggests that the book will most likely come to be accepted as the standard work on this important theatrical figure. The book can be purchased from the author's website at www.guselen.co.uk where more details can also be found.


Remembering Revudeville 1932 - 1964 by Jill Millard Shapiro

Compiled by ‘ex Windmill girl’ Jill Millard Shapiro
Published by Obscuriosity Press

Remembering Revudeville 1932 - 1964 by Jill Millard Shapiro -  Click to buy this book at Amazon.co.ukOn the 31st of October 1964 a very British institution took its final bow. That was the night of the Windmill's farewell performance and when the curtain fell for the last time on London's world famous little theatre, and the stage door locked shut behind its keeper, the Windmill's heart stopped beating. All that was left was the lingering smell of a good cigar, the ghost of a fan dancer, the last faint echoes of laughter and applause, and then darkness. After 32 years the Windmill had breathed its last breath. Or had it? No one could have predicted that half a century later, in the year 2014, the world would still remember with affection the Windmill Theatre with its famous comedians and its legendary Windmill Girls.

Fifty years on, in the public's heart, this particular British institution "Never Closed". This full colour hardback special edition book commemorates the Windmill on the fifty year anniversary of the theatre's closure. With over 600 illustrations (photographs and ephemera), stories and contributions from ex Windmillite Barry Cryer OBE, Windmill girls and boys who danced on through the blitz and many more, this book will remind those who were there of the phenomenon that was the Windmill, and give those who weren't the feeling of having visited the theatre that famously never closed.

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


Remembering Revudeville 1932 - 1964 by Jill Millard Shapiro -  Click to buy this book at Amazon.co.uk


Funny Bones - My Life in Comedy by Freddie Davies

Funny Bones - My Life in Comedy by Freddie Davies - Click to buy this book at Amazon.co.ukIn 1964 a single appearance on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks made "Parrotface" comedian Freddie Davies famous overnight. Spectacular success followed, working with stars such as Judy Garland and Cliff Richard. Even Cary Grant was a fan. But when it all began to slip in the eighties Freddie reinvented himself in order to stay in the business he loved. He became a producer, coping with the tantrums and egos of performers like Russ Conway. Then a business disaster forced him to start all over again, and he took to the high seas on cruise ships with an entirely new act for American audiences. Returning to the UK, Freddie forged yet another career, this time as an actor, appearing to great acclaim in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of The Secret Garden and cult film Funny Bones, based on tales of Freddie's grandfather, comedian Jack Herbert. And now Freddie has come full circle, delighting audiences once again with Samuel Tweet in theatres up and down the country. Fifty years on from his television debut, Freddie finally tells his own story, revealing for the first time the tragedy behind his early days in Salford and the family secret which later rocked his world. He also takes us behind the scenes at Butlins, where he worked with fellow Redcoat Dave Allen, and paints a vivid and hilarious picture of his gruelling apprenticeship in the Northern clubs - and the night "Parrotface" first spluttered into life. A poignant and hilarious evocation of a vanished world, with unique insights into the art of stand-up, Funny Bones is a richly nostalgic treat for comedy connoisseurs. It is also a heartwarming tribute to Freddie's grandad, forgotten variety comedian Jack Herbert, the man who ignited the passion for comedy which would drive the amazing career of the unique Freddie Davies.

Freddie's book is availiable from his publishers at Stage One Productions - You can also buy the book at Amazon.co.uk


After The pictuires by Keith G. Rose.

Buy 'After The Pictures' by Keith G. Rose at Amazon.co.ukKeith Rose, who has been a regular contributor to this site over the years, has spent the last 5 years creating an almost encyclopedic history of Liverpool's Cinemas for this new book, 'After the Pictures', which is a wonderful collection of historical information and images for Liverpool's Cinemas, and some Theatres which were turned over to Cinema use, most of which are now lost to memory. The book has a a vast amount of wonderful historic images and is Highly Recommended.

The book's summary reads: The number of cinemas in the Liverpool area peaked at over ninety and this book tells the story of the rise and fall of them, plus their eventual fate. An A to Z gallery of the picture houses gives brief details of each one, along with external, internal views and ephemera. As a bonus there are four case studies, which detail the politics behind their creation and the reasons for their demise.

With hundreds of pictures, some in colour, plus line drawings and paperwork, this is a must for anybody who was a cinemagoer, or who just wants to see what we had and then lost. Five years in the making, this is the end product to share the memories of a vanished era.

After The Pictures by Keith G. Rose is Published by Alba Printers Ltd. Dumfries, Scotland Softback, 193 pages, A4, ISBN 13:978-0-9554737-2-2 Price £16. 99. Buy this book at Amzon.co.uk.


Britain Had Talent A History of Variety Theatre by Oliver Double

Britain Had Talent by Oliver Double - Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.ukThis new book by Oliver Double on the history of Variety Theatre will be of interest to anyone who remembers it, or would like to know more about it. It covers the whole period from its early beginnings as the successor to Music Hall, right up to its demise in the 50s and 60s, and the beginning of Television's dominance over it. There are two main sections to the book, firstly the history of variety itself, and secondly what it consisted of, and the personalities who made it happen. There is also a small section entitled 'Variety Now' which explains how the form is still hanging on in various ways and places against all the odds. Although the book is mainly textual it does have some nice illustrations and there is a wealth of well indexed information here from someone who really knows variety inside out, highly recommended.

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.

The book is published by Pelgrave Macmillan and the jacket's 'blurb' follows:

'In the first half of the twentieth century, variety theatre ran through the centre of British cultural life like the lettering in seaside rock. Hundreds and thousands of people up and down the country flocked to fill Hippodromes, Empires and Palaces to see a string of variety acts. From singers to acrobats, jugglers to comics, dancers to ventriloquists, magicians to performing animals and nude acts, the variety show packed out twice nightly shows, six days a week at its height.

Britain Had Talent tells the fascinating story of variety theatre, tracing its origins from the low-lit taverns of the Victorian era, how it evolved in the face of competition from cinema and radio, through to its decline during the 1950s.

A Legacy for now - Oliver Double provides an engaging, vivid and detailed history of variety and explores its performance dynamics and techniques. The resilience and versatility of variety theatre is a testament to its place in popular culture and Double ably demonstrates the strength of variety's legacy with its influences on the birth of stand-up, the rock gig, acts like punk singer Ian Drury — not to mention providing the basic template for the current hit TV show Britain's Got Talent.

A rich line-up - Former comedian Oliver Double has drawn on a wealth of research materials including rare footage, contemporary reviews, trade magazines and antique theatre programmes — and has interviewed veteran performers like Vera Lynn, Ronnie Ronalde, the Beverley Sisters, Roy Hudd, Barry Cryer, and the glamorous strongwoman Joan Rhodes — to create a lively and detailed account of this fascinating and phenomenally popular theatre form.'


The Alhambra Glasgow by Graeme Smith

The complete history of the Glasgow Alhambra is told for the first time, in full colour, with 400 illustrations, in this new quality-bound softback book by Graeme Smith and is highly recommended.Famous for glamour and humour, variety, pantomime, musicals, ballet, opera, drama and dance the immense ALHAMBRA THEATRE stayed ahead of other theatres. Opening in 1910, at the corner of Waterloo Street and Wellington Street, and designed by eminent architect Sir John James Burnet, its managing director Sir Alfred Butt gave “the best of European and American Vaudeville attractions” in the “Resort of the Elite.” Its founders supported cinema, jazz, cabaret and ballrooms.

The complete history of the Glasgow Alhambra is told for the first time, in full colour, with 400 illustrations, in this new quality-bound softback book by Graeme Smith and is highly recommended.

The book is priced just £20 and can be found in all good bookstores and online at the book`s own website www.glasgowalhambra.co.uk

ISBN 978-0955942013

Graeme Smith is also the author of the book 'The Theatre Royal Entertaining A Nation' shown below.


The Theatre Royal Entertaining A Nation by Graeme SmithThe Theatre Royal Entertaining A Nation by Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith's book 'The Theatre Royal, Entertaining A Nation' - From Cowcaddens to the Colosseum, from Hope Street to Hollywood... for entertainment, drama, pantomime, music and song, this is the fascinating story, fully illustrated, of the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.

Available from www.glasgowtheatreroyal.co.uk for £19.95 Post Free.

Graeme Smith is also the author of the book 'Alhambra Glasgow' shown above.


A THEATRE FOR ALL SEASONS The History of the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

A THEATRE FOR ALL SEASONS The History of the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham This new book by Michael Hasted with a foreword by Steven Berkoff will be published on the 30th of September 2011 by Northern Arts Publications, an imprint of Jeremy Mills Publishing Ltd.

Hardback, 196 pages, lavishly illustrated with more than 200 pictures, full colour throughout. Price £17.99.

ISBN 9781906600617

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.

More information about the book is available at its website here.



Coventry's Forgotten Theatre: The Theatre Royal and Empire

Click here to buy this book at Amazon.co.ukTed Bottle is the author of 'Coventry's Forgotten Theatre, The Theatre Royal and Empire' published by Badger Press, in which he describes the Theatre's fascinating history in detail and includes glimpses of other Coventry Theatres and Music Halls, with an informative background of nineteenth Century English Provincial Theatre.

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


Mr Phipp's Theatre: The Sensational Story of Eastbourne's Royal Hippodrome

Click the cover to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.I highly recommend this new book by Mark Jones and John Pick which describes in detail "The Sensational Story of Eastbourne's Royal Hippodrome" - formerly Eastbourne Theatre Royal. The books sets the story against a social history of the town and contains a Foreword by Peter Longman, director of The Theatres Trust

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


British Music Hall - An Illustrated History

Richard Anthony Baker's new 300 page illustrated book on British Music Hall comes highly recommended for newcomers and experts alike.

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


Frank Matcham & Co

Frank Matcham & CoA New Book About The Famous Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, edited by David Wilmore with an introduction by Alan Bennett and essays by John Earl, Görel Garlick, Iain Mackintosh, Andrew Saint, Michael Sell & David Wilmore. With 237 pages and over 100 illustrations in both colour and black and white the book is published by Theatreshire Books, Dacre Hall, Dacre, North Yorkshire, HG3 4ET. Hardback Price £30 + £5 p&p.



Click here to buy this book at Amazon.co.ukThis new book celebrates the working buildings at the heart of the British theatrical industry. Focusing on the theatres in the West End, it looks at their architecture and history as well as examining what it is that constitutes a West End theatre.

Apart from the expected wonderful pictures of Auditoriums, and the Grand Entrances and Bars, this book has a plethora of pictures of the hidden areas inside London's West End Theatres, including The Grid, Fly Tower, Understage, Wardrobe, Stage Management Areas, Dressing Rooms, Stage Doors, Lighting and Sound, even a Thunder Run. Highly Recommended. M.L. 2004.

Click to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.


A Boy From Nowhere

David Mitchell has contributed a number of interesting articles for this site over the years and his book of memories detailing the life of a boy born to a poor family in London’s East End Docklands is a fascinating read and full of first hand information. Included are descriptions of the conditions of poverty which existed in pre-war times in the East End, what life was like then, and how the situation changed when war was declared on 3rd September 1939. There are also many mentions of David's favourite East End Theatres and what went on in them. More information on David's own website here.

David Mitchell's 'A Boy From Nowhere' is available from Melrose Books or online from various distributors. - Click to buy this book at Amazon.co.uk.


A Biography of Charles Kay - Click to buy the book on Amazon.co.ukA Biography of Charles Kay 'One of Life's Great Charmers'

Charles Kay was at first a Sporting Legend and Olympic Gold Medalist, but later on became a Music Hall and Variety Artist, Song Writer, Comedian, Actor and Touring Theatre Company Manager who played at venues throughout the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand for more than twenty years.

Michael Fairley's new biography of his Grandfather is a well researched and passionate homage to a man he never met, but had heard so much about. Here you will find a nicely illustrated and no holds barred account of this talented and resourceful man, known affectionately by Michael Fairley as 'One of Life's Great Charmers'.

Click to buy the book on Amazon.co.uk


Old Theatres of the Midlands

Terry Kirtland's 'Old Theatres of the Midlands,' with a foreword by Ken Dodd, is a fascinating and well illustrated book looking at the many Theatres, past and present, that have been part of the Midland's Theatrical scene. Terry details each Theatre's history and illustrates them with a plethora of wonderful images you probably won't have seen before. Highly recommended.

Available from the Old Theatres Website for £10 plus P&P.


Old Theatres Magazine

Following the success of Terry Kirtland's book 'Old Theatres of the Midlands' (shown above), a thrice yearly Magazine edited by Ted Bottle is now available by subscription at only £8 including UK post and packing. This Magazine is a must read for anyone interested in Theatre Architecture, Lost Theatres, and what went on in them. Packed with fascinating information and interesting photographs of Theatres that have, for the most part, disappeared into history. Terry talks about the latest edition below:

Here's a taste of what you will find in the current edition of Old Theatres Magazine

(Summer 2015 Edition (No.21)

OLD THEATRES MAGAZINEThe Summer 2015 Edition (No.21) of Britain’s cherished OLD THEATRES magazine of theatre nostalgia being distributed from July 1st, is a very special Edition to mark our seven years progress in drawing attention to our great theatre heritage. It’s a very important milestone for us so there will be new features to enjoy.

One of them will be a special and highly collectable supplement on ‘London’s Theatre by Night’ by our award winning Chief photographer, Ian Grundy. It is certainly going to be very collectable and part of our history. There will be more to follow!

This issue is certainly full of surprises as we report on a private theatre within one of Britain’s most important stately homes where we go behind the scenes at this unique part of the building. Our American readers will certainly be enthralled, and we think you will be, too.

And there’s more to enjoy when our Chief Reporters, David and Sue Aspinall go across to the Isle of Man to view its wonderful Frank Matcham designed Gaiety theatre at Douglas. Dating back to 1900, we are able to go backstage, up into the roof void and below stage to reveal its stage machinery which is still in position.

Manchester Opera House is also featured. Not only can you read about its history, but we are able to show you how the auditorium used to be and how its is now as we turn the clock back 36 years. And Editor Ted Bottle strips back the years to the 1950s when Bilston Theatre Royal in the West Midlands was a wonderful starter theatre for those taking their first steps on the stage at the beginning of their theatre careers. Park Palace Music Hall in Liverpool is also remembered.

We also welcome back impressionist, Peter Goodwright who reveals some backstage Pantomime secrets when some things resulted in extra merriment from the audience.

Produced voluntarily by retired journalists, authors and historians, together with editorial help from its readers, this truly unique publication of theatre nostalgia continues to publicise our halls of entertainment so our theatre stock can be saved for future generations to enjoy.

The magazine is packed with articles, features and memories within its 52 pages - each edition becoming part of our history and a handy reference source.

To purchase a copy of this latest edition (No.21) please send a cheque for £8 (payable to T.G. Kirtland) to us at 20, Rife Way, Felpham, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, PO22 7BW. (Payment includes UK postage and packing.)

(If you wish us to send this copy to a friend, be sure to make this clear to us by providing details of the delivery address.)

Further information is provided on our Web pages www.oldtheatres.co.uk

Do please contact us by E Mail, if possible: oldtheatres@googlemail.com.