The Lyric Theatre, also known as the Lyric Hammersmith, is a theatre in King Street, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which takes pride in its original, "groundbreaking" productions.
The Lyric Theatre was originally a music hall established in 1888 on Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith. Success as an entertainment venue led it to be rebuilt and enlarged on the same site twice, firstly in 1890 and then in 1895 by the English theatrical architect Frank Matcham. The 1895 re-opening, as The New Lyric Opera House, was accompanied by an opening address by the famous actress Lillie Langtry. In 1966 the theatre was due to be closed and demolished. However, a successful campaign to save it led to the auditorium being dismantled and re-installed piece by piece within a modern shell on its current site on King Street a short distance from the former Bradmore Grove location. The relocated theatre opened in 1979.
It has two main performance areas: the Main House, a 550-seat 19th-century auditorium maintaining the original design which hosts its main productions; and the 120-seat Studio, which houses smaller productions by up-and-coming companies. The Lyric also presents frequent Lyric Children and Lyric Music performances as well as Sunday Night Comedy. Its current artistic director is Sean Holmes, and its executive director is Sian Alexander.
The Lyric has recently gone through a major re-development project, with new facilities for young people and the local community completed in 2015, designed by Rick Mather Architects and was nominated in the 'community benefit' and 'tourism and leisure' categories at the RICS Awards 2016, London. In 2011, the Lyric won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre for Sean Holmes' production of Sarah Kane's Blasted.
On Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith in 1888 a Music Hall was built to the designs of Isaac Mason called the Lyric Hall. This building had a very short life and two years later was reconstructed to the designs of F. & H. Francis & Sons and reopened as the Lyric Opera House on the 17th of November 1890. The auditorium consisted of two levels, stalls and one circle.
Five years later the Theatre was again reconstructed, this time by the Chamberlen Brothers, to the designs of the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, who gutted the building and rebuilt the Theatre within the walls of the original structure. The new auditorium, decorated by De Jong, was constructed on three levels; stalls, circle, and gallery, capable of holding 1,000 people. And the Theatre was equipped with new stage 23' 10" wide by about 17' deep, with a new fly tower allowing scenery to be flown out rather than using rolled cloths as in the old Theatre.
The new Lyric Theatre was opened on the 20th of July 1895 by Lilly Langtry who gave an Address by Wilton Jones. This was followed by a production of the drama 'A House of Lies', and the two act play 'Dora'. This new Theatre was so successful that in 1899 the building was again reconstructed and enlarged, especially the front of house, again to the designs of Frank Matcham. The ERA printed a review of the new building in their 21st of October 1899 edition saying:- "Mr Acton Phillips's theatre, since its reconstruction from the design of Mr Frank Matcham, has received a very large amount of patronage from the local public, so much so that its accommodation has had to be increased, and this occurs principally in the additions to the front of the house.
At the rear of the dress-circle a large and handsome saloon has been erected, and this occupies the vacant space over the entrance vestibule and offices, &c. The saloon is fitted up and furnished in a most artistic manner, the ceiling being in raised decoration and the walls covered with leather paper, and the whole richly furnished and lighted by electricity. The approach to this room is by a wide staircase, the walls and ceiling being similarly decorated. A large retiring room has been added, fitted up with all the latest improvements...
...The exterior has been for some months in the hands of the builders. Their work now being completed, the result is as shown in the accompanying illustration. The old building, which used to fall back some distance from the main wall on the first tier, has now been brought forward, and it greatly enhances the appearance of the exterior. The front consists of yellow bricks pointed with red stone ornamentation. The handsome windows are provided with ornamented leaded lights. There is a quantity of elaborate iron work, and a graceful balcony at each end of the building. All the woodwork and doors are of "Post-office" red, which gives a warm appearance and harmonises with the stonework.
...The entrance hall is new, the walls being of Hendon stone and faience work, with ceilings of raised Cordova work delicately decorated. The whole of the entrance hall and the dress circle tier, from which the approach to the new saloon bar runs, have been handsomely adorned, and velvet curtains of a particularly rich terra cotta colour have been added. Altogether the alterations have been a decided improvement to the front of the house, and have been completed from the designs of the well-known architect, Mr Frank Matcham, and under his supervision. The building work has been done by Messrs Chamberlain Brothers. Messrs Acton Phillips and Son are to be congratulated on the effect of the improvements in their pretty theatre.' The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 21st of October 1899.
What is remarkable about the Lyric, Hammersmith today is that although it is still a functioning Theatre it is not actually on the original site in which it was built. After a public inquiry in 1969, the original Theatre was demolished but the auditorium was preserved and then completely reconstructed inside a modern building off King Street, Hammersmith in 1979, which was situated on part of the site of the former Hammersmith Palace Theatre, demolished in 1950. Consequently you may now enter through an unexceptional 1970s building on Lyric Square and find yourself, two stories up, in Frank Matcham's 1895 Victorian Rococo auditorium.
Although the auditorium was recreated the dimensions were modified slightly to fit in the new shell. The proscenium was widened by about 4 foot and the height was extended to match. In fact the whole auditorium was then stretched to fit in with the new dimensions, including raising the ceiling, and new lighting positions were cleverly fitted into the ceiling, disguised by mesh where plaster would have previously been. The auditorium of the current Lyric Theatre is built on three levels, Stalls and two circles, and can accommodate around 537. The stage has a proscenium width of 29 foot and a depth of 27 foot.
The new Lyric Theatre on Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith, was opened by the Queen in 1979 and, apart from the main Theatre itself, also housed a small Studio Theatre which could accommodate 120 people. In 2004 redevelopment of the building took place when the original small entrance on King Street was replaced by a new entrance on Lyric square.
The changes also included adding a new Box Office, new rehearsal and workshop spaces, and a cafe at street level. The work was carried out to the designs of the architect Rick Mather. In 2012 work was begun on another redevelopment of the Lyric which included the building of new Drama, Dance, Film, and TV recording studios, a small Cinema for 60, and a new bar and cafe for its patrons. The expansion was completed in November 2014.
The success of 'Revudeville' at the Windmill Theatre encouraged Laura Henderson to try out these Revues in other Theatres. Owing to the remarkable demand by provincial Theatres for Revudeville to be staged in their seperate towns, Mrs. Laura Henderson has decided to embark on another project, and for the purpose has taken the Lyric Theatre, Hemmersmith for one month at which to start a No. 1 Touring Company of RevudevilleIn 1932 the Lyric Hammersmith staged a production of Revudeville, and in February 1937 the Piccadilly Theatre began showing 'Revudeville Pot-Pourrie' for a short time. A notice in the Windmill's Xmas Revudeville programme reads:
'Owing to the remarkable demand by provincial Theatres for Revudeville to be staged in their separate towns, Mrs. Laura Henderson has decided to embark on another project, and for the purpose has taken the Lyric Theatre, Hemmersmith for one month at which to start a No. 1 Touring Company of Revudeville. This has been produced entirely by Miss Eva Bradfield, who has been responsible for all the productions in the Windmill Theatre for the last seven months, and we can promise all patrons of this theatre who care to take a journey down to Hammersmith, an entertainment on considerably larger lines than that attempted here, and one which will be outstanding in every respect.'
The above mentioned Tour began on the 26th of December 1932 and ran for just 4 weeks. Vivian Van Damm wrote an article about this tour in a Windmill Theatre programme of 1932 which reads:
'I am receiving many letters from patrons all over the Country begging me to change my programme weekly or fortnightly, and much as I should love to be able to please all and sundry who make this request, I would ask you to realise what it means to put on an absolute and complete change of programme every three weeks, including as it does four new production numbers which take considerable time to devise and rehearse, and in addition a minimum of 67 new dresses have to be made for each show.
It certainly would be a marvelous thing for us if we could please everybody in this respect, but unfortunately at the moment that is not possible. One day however, judging by the way in which Revudeville is forging ahead in the esteem of the British public, I may be in a position to give you very good news regarding a further scheme, and whilst I am on this subject, I should like to take this opportunity of informing you that a complete new version of Revudeville, which is eventually going on tour, is being rehearsed and will be put on at the Lyric, Hammersmith (the house which Sir Nigel Playfair made so famous with "The Beggar's Opera") commencing on Monday, Dec. 26th, for four weeks only.
This production will be on the same lines as the present show we give here but with entirely different numbers and if you and your friends happen to be in that neighbourhood and want to have an hour or so of delightful entertainment, I can do no better than recommend you look to the Lyric, Hammersmith and see what we can do when we go out for a big show. The Lyric, of course, is a much larger theatre than the Windmill, and the show will naturally be on a bigger scale.' - Vivian Van Damm - From a Windmill Theatre Programme of 1932 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
BALLET, ballet, ballet. As soon as one company leaves, another arrives. Or, maybe, two arrive - as, last week, LUNCHTIME BALLET at the Cambridge, BALLET RAMBERT At Hammersmith Lyric. Time was when we seemed able to think of ballet only in terms of Russia. Looking over my old articles I find one written in 1918 headed "A Plea for an English Ballet - The Need for a Permanent Institution."
I wish I could claim that and the Wells Ballet as cause and effect. For the Wells Ballet has no equal in England. Great were the days when you could see it for sixpence. At the New the cheapest Seats were a shilling. Sad but understandable. Now at the Prince's (where Helpmann and Fonteyn will follow the opera season) they have gone up to eighteen pence. In the name of Baylis, why?
In a properly civilised country it would be possible to enjoy the best ballet, the best drama, the best music free. Revolutionary? Hardly. We enjoy the best pictures free at our public galleries. But as to the Rambert Ballet. Often it is charming. Don't miss "Jardin aux Lilas," a dark, delicate, emotional gem with thwarted love for its theme and costumes of supreme beauty by Hugh Stevenson.
Nor should you miss Sara Luzita. Mme. Rambert not only has trained but is training some of our finest dancers. Sara Luzita looks like becoming one. On the other hand, you may miss "Swan Lake Act II" - a sorry failure on a stage too small where huntsmen too stiff aim at swans far too galumphing. Above text from a press cutting found inside a Wartime programme for the Ballet Rambert at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in a repertory of their original Ballets in August 1944.
The Lyric's programme is divided into five strands: Main House; Studio; Music & Comedy; Lyric Children; Lyric Young Company.
The Lyric Hammersmith is a fully accessible building, which provides a wide variety of accessible performances including Audio Described and Open Captioned performances for every main house production and also BSL and Relaxed performances for some shows. You can also take part in one of their integrated or specialist classes.
The Lyric Hammersmith has two theatres: the Main House, which seats 550 and the Studio, their smaller, more intimate studio space, which seats 110 people. The Lyric is fully equipped with elevators to the Main House, Studio and Reuben Foundation Wing.
The Lyric has a range of toilet facilities available including all-gender toilets, private accessible toilets in their café, on the Stalls level, on their balcony level near the creative space, and a ‘Changing Places’ toilet in the Reuben Foundation Wing. They also have a baby change facility on their first floor near the entrance to the Reuben Foundation Wing.
When booking accessible seating and performances they do ask that you get in touch directly with the Box Office Team so that they can best advise on seats suitable to your requirements. You can contact them in a variety of different ways either by phone on 020 8741 6850, via the Next Generation Text Service on 18001 020 8741 6850, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can pop into the theatre in person.
Their upcoming performances can be found on their website on the ‘What’s On’ page (see below), which details age suitability and a short synopsis of the performance. They also have leaflets available at the Box Office.
Getting to the Lyric. All of Hammersmith’s Underground lines (District, Piccadilly, Circle and Hammersmith and City) have good wheelchair access. The theatre is about 200 yards from all tube stations and the Broadway bus station with the route being level access. The nearest disabled parking spaces to the Lyric are in the King’s Mall shopping centre car park on Level 6 and 7. There is currently some building work taking place at Kings Mall so to get to the Lyric the best option is to leave the carpark by the Beadon Road exit and turn right, Lyric Square is a short walk from there.
Audio Described Performances. Audio description gives additional commentary during a performance, describing things like body language and facial expressions, costume, scenery and action sequences. This service may be useful for people who are blind, visually impaired or partially sighted. Before each audio described performance they also provide a touch tour. Touch tours give you an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the set and costumes before the show to enhance your enjoyment of the production. They usually last about an hour and are held before the performance. Spaces are limited, so please let them know if you would like to attend when booking your tickets.
Guide dogs are welcome in the building. If you would like to take your dog into a performance please let them know when booking your ticket.
Open Captioned Performances. For certain performances they provide Open Captions. Captions are similar to television subtitles. The actors’ words appear on a display unit placed in the set or next to the stage, at the same time as they are spoken or sung. Speaker names, sound effects and offstage noises are also shown. This service may be useful for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.
BSL interpreted performances. They offer British Sign Language interpreted performances for certain shows. When booking your tickets, please mention that you will be using this service so they are able to allocate you seats with a clear view of the signer.
Both of their theatres have a Sennheiser infra-red audio enhancement system. You can collect a headset from a member of their Visitor Services team. If you’d like to use the Sennheiser system please tell the ticket office when you book your tickets so they are able to advise you on the best possible seating.
Relaxed performances. Relaxed Performances are specifically planned and programmed to welcome guests who will benefit from a more relaxed performance environment, including guests on the Autistic Spectrum, guests with sensory and communication disorders, guests with a learning disability or parents who want to attend the performances with young children. There is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement in the auditorium and they make some small changes to the light and sound effects to accommodate the needs of their guests. They open up break-out spaces in the building including their well-equipped Sensory Space for guests who may want some me-time away from the action on stage. An easy way to understand the atmosphere is perhaps, ‘the opposite of the quiet carriage on the train’ in a completely inclusive environment.
Location : Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King St, London W6 0QL
Access Line : 020 8741 6850
Tel: 020 8741 6822