You are here: Archive Home > Carte > Savoy Theatre > Description Description from The Era
The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   The Savoy Theatre

From The Era (London, England), Saturday, October 1, 1881; Issue 2245.

This new Theatre has been erected from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. C. J, Phipps, F.S.A., architect of the Gaiety, the Haymarket, the Princess's, and other Theatres. It is situate on the west side of Beaufort-buildings, Strand, and occupies a site absolutely isolated on all four sides, thus affording free and expeditious entrance and exit for all classes of the public.

The entrances are thus distributed, and are arranged so as to utilise the peculiar levels of the site. For the stalls and dress-circle, and for all persons coming in carriages, the entrances are from just off the Thames Embankment. The pit is also entered here, and there is an entrance to the upper circle. The audience for both these latter parts can come direct from the Strand by a short flight of steps adjoining Beaufort House. In Beaufort-buildings also is an entrance to, and on a level with, the upper circle. The entrances before referred to, from the Embankment, are on a level with the dress circle, and a few steps lead down to the stalls and pit. The gallery is entered from Carting-lane, a street in a direct line from the Embankment to the Strand. The Royal entrance is at the angle of Somerset-street, and Carting-lane. The stage entrance is in Herbert's-passage, and the box-office for booking seats during the day is situated close to the Strand at the angle of the Beaufort-buildings frontage. The Theatre is entered from Somerset-street through a semi-circular vestibule paved with black and white marble, in which are the offices for booking and obtaining seats in the evening.

Doorways immediately opposite the entrances lead to the dress-circle corridor, out of which wide staircases will be found on both sides of the Theatre leading to the stalls. From this vestibule are also means of communicating by an ascending staircase with the upper circle, and by pass-doors to the pit staircase.

All the entrances, passages, and staircases are of fire-resisting material; the flights of stairs are supported at each end by solid brick walls, and each staircase has a hand-rail on either side. There is no part of the Theatre that has not two means of both ingress and egress, and the stage is separated from the auditory by a solid brick wall taken up completely through the roof. Water laid on from the high-pressure mains is in several parts of the Theatre, and every possible means has been taken to insure both comfort and safety to the audience.

On the floor below the vestibule is a large refreshment-saloon for the pit, and contiguous to it a smoking-room opening out of the stalls corridor, with a separate boudoir lounge for ladies. There are also refreshment-saloons on the upper floors of the Theatre for both the upper circle and gallery, with all necessary retiring and cloak-rooms.

The auditory is thus arranged:– On either side of the stage opening (which is 30ft. wide and 32ft. high), are three private boxes on each of the three levels. These are divided by partitions and ornamental pillars, and are surmounted by an arch spanning the whole width of the proscenium, springing from a cornice on the level of the gallery front. These boxes are richly upholstered in hangings of gold colour brocaded silk.

The orchestra is in front of the stage, and is of sufficient capacity for a full band of twenty-seven or more musicians.

There are nine rows of stalls immediately adjoining the orchestra, seated to hold 150 persons in arm chairs, with ample space allowed for passing between the several rows; and wide unimpeded gangways on either side of the entrance passages. Behind the stalls are six rows of pit seats, calculated to seat 250 persons, with a spacious open corridor behind for standing and promenading. Above the pit, but at sufficient height to allow of persons at the very back seeing the full height of the scenery, is the dress circle of six rows of seats, with arm-chairs for 160 persons. There are no pillars of any kind in the dress circle, so a clear, unobstructed view of the stage is obtained from every seat. Above the dress circle, but receding some nine feet back from it, is the upper circle, seated to accommodate 160 persons in five rows. The amphitheatre and gallery recede 5ft. behind the upper circle, and will seat 400 to 500 persons in eight rows. The whole seating accommodation will be for 1,292 persons. In each tier the balcony front takes the form of a horseshoe, that being the best adapted for perfect sight of the stage.

The ornamentation of these several balcony fronts is Renaissance in character, and is elaborately moulded and enriched with the figures and foliage peculiar to the Italian phase of the style, and gilded. The ceiling over the auditory takes the form of an extended fan from the arch spanning the proscenium, and is divided into a series of geometric panels, richly modelled in Renaissance ornament in relief, of the same character as the balcony fronts. Colour is sparingly used in the ceiling, the background of the ornament only being painted a light gold colour. The proscenium arch is divided by ribs and cross styles into a series of panels, and the ornament in these is gilded. Over the proscenium in the tympanum of the arch is a basso relievo of figures and foliated ornament. The walls of the auditory are hung with a rich embossed paper, in two tones of deep Venetian red. The seats are covered in peacock blue, plush being used for the stalls, and stamped velvet for the dress circle. A gold-coloured satin curtain takes the place of the usual painted act drop.

The stage, which is laid with all the latest improvements in mechanical contrivances, is 60ft. wide, by a depth from the float-light to the back wall of 52ft. There is a clear height above the stage of 56ft. for the working of the scenery, and a sink below of 15ft. Behind the stage, and occupying the whole wing of the building in Herbert's-passage, are the dressing-rooms.

The Theatre is fitted with a complete system of gas lighting, but this is only for use in case of emergency, the whole of the illuminating for all parts of the establishment being by means of electricity. This has been undertaken by Messrs. Siemens and Co., and the lights adopted are those introduced by Swan, of Newcastle, and known as the Swan incandescent light, the power necessary to generate the electric current for so many lights being supplied by powerful steam engines placed in a separate building on the vacant land adjoining the Theatre. These "Swan" lights are of a beautiful colour, and in no way impair the atmosphere of the Theatre, and emit no heat. They are not of the piercing brightness of the electric arc lights as seen in our streets and elsewhere, and therefore not unpleasant to the eyes.
This is the first instance of a public building being lighted permanently in all its departments by the electric light.

The exterior façade of the Theatre is in Somerset-street, facing the Thames Embankment, and both this and the Beaufort-buildings frontage are built of red brick, with Portland stone for all moulded parts, and are of the Italian style of architecture.

The contractors who have been engaged upon the works are as follows:– Patman and Fotheringham, for the whole of the builder's work including stage. Collinson and Lock have arranged the scheme of colour for the interior, and have executed the painting, papering, and gilding, and have supplied the upholstery and carpets; they have also executed the plaster ornamentation of the auditory, in conjunction with Jackson and Sons. Strode and Co. have done the whole of the gas arrangements. Wadman has manufactured the armchairs for dress circle and stalls. Burke and Co. have laid down the marble floor of the vestibule. C. Drake and Co. have executed the concrete floors and staircases. Farraday and Son have made all the internal fittings in connection with the electric lighting. Merryweather and Sons have supplied the fire hydrants and other such appliances. Clarke and Co. have constructed the revolving iron shutters and blinds at entrances. Mr. J. E. Walker has been the architect's clerk of works.

The opening, fixed for Monday, has been postponed until Thursday next. Mr. D'Oyly Carte has determined to spare his patrons the annoyance arising from the fee system, and here it will have no existence. The refreshment-saloons will not be sublet to a contractor, whose interest it is to get every possible penny out of the public, but will be under the supervision of a salaried Manager.

Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera Patience is to be mounted afresh, with new scenery, costumes, and increased chorus. It is being again rehearsed under the personal direction of the author and composer, and on the opening night the opera will be conducted by the composer.

Archive Home | Carte | Savoy Theatre

   Page modified 25 October, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.