Regular performances will be held at Alexandra Palace in north London for the first time in more than 80 years following a glittering £27m ($36 million) renovation of its east wing. Once a popular venue for pantomimes, operas, plays and ballets, the Victorian theatre, hidden inside Alexandra Palace reopened this weekend with details of its first ever Christmas Carnival and eclectic December arts programme.
Alexandra Palace’s “hidden” theatre is not widely known to modern audiences. When it opened in 1875, the theatre was home to some of the most advanced stage machinery and mechanics of the age and initially drew crowds of 3000 each night who were entertained by pantomime, opera, drama, ballet and music hall. However, when the West End’s popularity increased the theatre struggled to draw an audience and fell into a state of decay. It then was used as a shelter for Belgian refugees during the WWI and as part of an internment camp for German prisoners during WWII and it was used as a BBC prop storeroom and workshop.
Following a multi-million-pound restoration project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Haringey Council, and with the backing of celebrities from Emma Thompson to Sandi Toksvig, Alexandra Palace Theatre reopened in December with a mixed programme of drama, music, comedy and family shows. The first month’s programming includes performances from Irish comedian Dylan Moran and choirmaster Gareth Malone. In March 2019, Alexandra Palace’s first theatrical co-production with Headlong and Bristol Old Vic, Richard III will make its debut.
The theatre renovation is part of a wider development scheme restoring the East Court of London’s Alexandra Palace. The auditorium has been reconfigured to seat almost 900, with a standing capacity of around 1300, and can support a number of different productions. The East Court also re-opened in December, transforming how the public interacts with the palace with a series of immersive events for adults and children.
For the first time ever, the Ally Pally Christmas Carnival will run from the 1st until the 16th of December. Throughout the period, the palace will host performances from local choirs, free workshops, a Christmas market, funfair and street food. The events will run alongside ticketed attractions including a Santa’s Grotto, film screenings with Luna Cinema and the Palace’s Ice Rink and Pantomime on Ice.
Louise Stewart, Chief Executive of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust (APPCT), said: “This December, people from London and beyond will be able to explore this incredible space that has been hidden from the public. The Christmas Carnival is a great opportunity to celebrate the hard work that has gone into completing this immense project, but also give people a chance to experience the work of the Charity and our Creative Learning Programme.”
Alexandra Palace, dubbed the Ally Pally, is known as a live music venue, with previous headliners including the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. The full programme of upcoming events can be found here.