Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Frank Matcham

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Frank Matcham

Article excerpt

Go inside the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, preferably when it is empty. Look round. Look up. And there it is, with its elegant decorated and gilded curves, rising to the ornate cupola, panelled in duck-egg blue. Look at the proscenium arch, the swagged red curtains with seats to match. The chandelier above the stalls. It is perfect. The lines please the eye, painting and gilding are to just the right degree of 'Over the Top'.

You could equally well go to the King's Theatre Glasgow or His Majesty's Theatre Aberdeen, the London Coliseum, the Theatre Royal Wakefield or the Gaiety, Dublin, and do the same thing. Even before anything happens on stage, you are having a theatrical experience. You are in a Matcham Theatre.

Frank Matcham was born in 1854 in Devon, went to London and was apprenticed to the consulting theatre architect to the Lord Chamberlain's Office. By 25, he had completed his first solo theatre design, and was soon training two other young men in the profession.

Between them, between 1890 and 1905, they designed more than 200 theatres. Matcham was not a man of many parts -- he was the master of one -- though he did design the magnificent (and now carefully preserved) County Arcade, Leeds. Theatre owners were delighted not only by the grandeur and elegance of Matcham's designs; they also liked that his theatres were more profitable, thanks to the new steel cantilevered design of which he was a pioneer. …

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