Lights Up on Saturday night
One summer afternoon in 2010 I went along to the Everyman theatre for a backstage tour and a presentation of the plans for a new Everyman that would arise out of the rubble of the old building, due to be pulled down in the coming year.
That was to be the last time I, or any of us Liverpudlians who have loved the place so much, set foot in the building – until yesterday. Because yesterday, after Saturday night’s Lights Up parade, was Housewarming when the Everyman once again opened its doors for a Sunday open house, a chance for us all to have a nose around the new building and its brand-spanking new facilities.
The place was heaving – testament to the special place which the Everyman has in the hearts of Liverpudlians. In the theatre auditorium itself everything has changed, yet everything is the same: the distinctive ‘thrust’ stage, the colour of the upholstery, the bare brick walls (reclaimed from the old building). There was a distinct, indeed emotional feeling of being back home.
Soon those seats will be filled with Twelfth Nighters
The big change from the audience point of view is that a slim balcony has been inserted; from the players’ point of view, it’ll be the replacement of the dingy and cramped dressing rooms (once described by Jonathan Pryce as ‘a bloody shithole’) and new, state of the art performance technology.
A new balcony
Elsewhere it was difficult, particularly shouldering your way through the crowds, to get your bearings. The front of house areas are radically changed. There’s much more space for pre-show socialising, with a bar and cafe on two floors, big windows and a balcony overlooking Hope Street, and a proper box office (that yesterday was doing a roaring trade, showing just how clever the Housewarming idea had been).
The street-level cafe and bar
Now for the big moment: how many times, on how many evenings, have we descended the stairs to the Bistro? The stairs, in roughly the same configuration are still there, only now they are accessed from inside the building. What would we find down there?
Down to the Bistro
I have to admit to a sense of disappointment at what we found. I suppose it was inevitable: the well-loved Everyman Bistro was like a favourite old, saggy sofa. Now it’s all 21st century clean lines and shiny surfaces. No longer do you queue at a separate counter for food, reading the offer chalked on a blackboard, free to cast your eye over the dishes as you wait. Now, you order at the bar, off a menu with no food in sight, your order brought to your table. I also miss the distinctive lit wall recesses that housed small plants, and the painting made by Sam Walsh of the Bistro and its denizens.
It’s progress, I suppose, and what will matter most is the quality of the food. But I mourn the loss of the old Bistro (like I mourn the old Armadillo, round the corner from Probe Records in Button Street: Friday afternoons sorted in the seventies).
The new Bistro: maybe we’ll grow to love it, too.
Outside, the iconic lettering of the Everyman sign has been retained beneath the new signature feature of 105 life-sized portraits of Liverpool people transferred onto cut aluminium shutters – a true ‘everyman’ representation of the people of Liverpool. At Saturday night’s Lights Up, an interesting short film about the making of this artwork was projected on a screen at the end of Hope Street.
Everyman and woman: the theatre’s new Portrait Wall
This is the short film, created by Handstand Productions, that documents the stages in creating the Portrait Wall from the first photo sessions to the wall coming together for the first time.
Another film screened at Lights Up was Dear Everyman, in which Everyman alumni share their memories – and hopes for the future of the new theatre.
There are lots more atmospheric photos of the Housewarming and Lights Up at A Sense of Place, written by fellow-Liverpool blogger Ronnie Hughes. Before the old Bistro closed he put together this heartfelt tribute to the wonderful old Bistro.
- A New Everyman: a preview of how the new will arise from the old (July 2010)
- Memories of The Everyman’s heyday
- Jonathan Pryce returns to the Everyman
- King Lear at the Everyman
- Pete Postlethwaite: a sense of loss
- Remembering Ken Campbell
Here’s to another fifty years of fireworks on Hope Street