Can you believe The Epstein is 100 years old!
Staff at The Epstein Theatre on Hanover Street are celebrating a very special milestone today – for the venue has been entertaining audiences for 100 years!
Over the years, various articles have been written about the Grade II listed building, reporting that it had opened in 1913. However, local historian, Philip Mayer, has been researching the history of The Epstein and discovered that it opened as Crane’s Concert Hall on Thursday, 3 February 1916, after being first licensed on 27 January 1916.
Philip, from the Dingle, was delving into the history of local cinemas when he stumbled across interesting planning documents for the building.
Philip revealed: “The concert hall/theatre couldn’t have opened before late 1915, possibly even early 1916, as amended plans were still being received by the Building Surveyor’s Department as late as January 1916 for rearrangements of exits in the gallery.
“The initial plans of the theatre were received by the Building Surveyor’s Department in December 1913. It’s reasonable to assume that the theatre wasn’t started until after October 1914 when amended plans showed there would be a stage. Joseph Sharples in his Pevsner guide gives the date of the 7-storey building as 1913-15, meaning it was started in 1913 and finished in 1915.”
According to Philip, the auditorium was built to showcase the pianos built by The Crane Brothers. Originally a pawnbroking business in Scotland Road, the company’s music store on Hanover Street was built incorporating the auditorium.
An article published in The Liverpool Daily Post on Friday, 28th January, 1916, announces: “The opening of Messrs Crane’s beautiful new concert hall will take place on Thursday next when Messrs Neilson and Reginald Evans will present ‘The Eccentrics’ in song, story and burlesque. The proceeds will be used to defray the expenses of presenting the same performance at military hospitals and camps during the winter.”
And on Wednesday, 2nd February, 1916, The Era ran an advert for Crane Concert Hall saying: “Wanted manager, previous experience and good references indispensable.”
One fascinating and little known fact is that this beautiful building and the theatre were designed by W Aubrey Thomas, architect of the Royal Liver Building.
Over the years, the concert hall space was hired by many local amateur dramatic societies who staged productions there. The venue was later renamed The Crane Theatre, although it had always held a Theatrical License and a Music License.
In 1967 the theatre was purchased from the Cranes by Liverpool Corporation, who decided that the theatre should be run by local people for local people and was named The Neptune Theatre in keeping with Liverpool’s maritime history. Neptune is featured on Liverpool’s coat of arms. The Neptune later became a comedy club and after many years of uncertainty about the future of the theatre, it eventually closed in 2005.
The venue received a much needed £1m refurbishment in 2011 under the leadership of Councillor Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council and was renamed The Epstein Theatre in memory of Liverpool’s most successful music entrepreneur and The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, whose portrait takes pride of place in Brian’s Bar. It was officially opened on Wednesday 9th May 2012.
Despite the name changes, one thing has remained constant, this much loved venue in the heart of the city centre has been providing a wide range of live entertainment for over 100 years – from homegrown talent including Andrew Lancel, Andrew Schofield and Crissy Rock to international touring comics, artists and bands, not forgetting the popular Easter and Christmas pantos.
And 100 years following “The Eccentrics” first performance, burlesque is just as popular with The Epstein audience and the theatre welcomes burlesque acts from The Martini Lounge to London favourites, Le Bouge Neon who will perform at The Epstein on 19th February.
The stunning auditorium boasts a grand interior and seats 380 over two levels and has a fantastic line-up of entertainment this spring – from Music Hall Tavern to 80s pop legend Howard Jones, comedian Jimeoin and football hero Paul Gascoigne.
Theatre Manager Rebekah Pichilingi said: “We were delighted to learn that the Epstein has been bringing top class entertainment to the people of Liverpool for a century. As well as a sense of pride, we also feel an enormous sense of responsibility to maintain this reputation and do our best to ensure that, in another 100 years, the theatre will be spoken of in the same high regard.”
To book tickets call 0844 888 4411, visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk or book in person at the theatre box office (open 2-6pm Mon-Thu, 12-6 Fri-Sat).