Dionne Warwick Live at The Hippodrome (photo: David Jensen)
UK - Exactly 30 years after Jo Longthorne appeared in the final Talk of the Town production at the Hippodrome, the historic London venue has reopened. This follows a major £40m refurbishment, which drew on the innovative theatre design expertise of theatre consultants Charcoalblue LLP.

The Grade II listed venue, built in 1900 by the famous theatrical architect Frank Matcham, has been converted into London's first super casino, combining gaming and live performance with a first-class restaurant.

Charcoalblue was appointed to assist London-based architects Cadmium Design & Architecture in the design and planning of the Matcham Room, the entertainment venue that will house Live at the Hippodrome. In addition, the space provides a unique venue for hire in the heart of London's West End.

Paul Crosbie, senior project consultant for Charcoalblue comments, "As someone who is passionate about the West End's theatre stock and in particular about the work of Frank Matcham, the idea of opening the Hippodrome as a super-casino was at first of great concern. However, after meeting with owner of the venue, Simon Thomas, it was clear that the building was going to be treated with the respect that it deserved. From that point onwards it was a pleasure to be involved. A key part of our remit was to work alongside Simon and his team to ensure that the scheme presented to the planners, particularly the live-performance venue, would have the endorsement of the Theatre's Trust. As a result of working closely with the Trust, the Matcham Room was born."

Charcoalblue designed the overhead rigging and suspension systems in the stage-house along with the masking, acoustics and drapes systems installed in the reconstructed proscenium arch. The company also designed the flexible staging system that allows the Matcham Room to convert from a flat-floored room to a space with a raised stage of varying height and footprint.

While the stage-house is home to the flexible-use Matcham Room, the original auditorium now houses a top-class restaurant and lounge, a cocktail bar, private dining rooms, events spaces and casino floors, which feature both traditional and state-of-the-art electronic gaming.

Andy Hayles, managing partner for Charcoalblue explains, "Charcoalblue's role was to encourage the client to consider the possible future use of the building and enable their vision to retain live performance as a key element of the venue's new life as a casino."

Launched on Thursday 12 July, the inaugural events at Live at the Hippodrome - including Janie Dee, Jane Monheit, Tony Christie, Kate Dimbleby, Julian Ovenden and Miss Polly Rae - have all attracted very positive reviews, while later in the year performances will include evenings with Kerry Ellis, Judy Kuhn, Stefanie Powers, Suzi Quatro, Hot Club of Cowtown, Lea DeLaria and Cerys Matthews.

(Jim Evans)

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