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The Everyman Theatre




The Everyman Theatre stands at the north end of Hope Street in Liverpool. It was founded in 1964 in the appropriately named Hope Hall (once a chapel, then a cinema), it quickly built a reputation for ground-breaking work. The Everyman transformation which will create a brand new incarnation of this pioneering and much-loved theatre is now almost complete. It is planned to re-open early 2014. But what of the history of this much loved Liverpool institution ?



Hope Hall in 1959


The building was constructed as Hope Hall, a dissenters' chapel built in 1837. In 1841 it became a church dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist. This became a public concert hall in 1853. In 1912 the hall was turned into Hope Hall Cinema, which continued serving this purpose until it closed in 1963. Prior to its closure the hall had become a meeting place for local artists, poets, folk musicians, and sculptors, including Arthur Dooley, Roger McGough, and Adrian Henri, forming what became known as the Liverpool Scene. This group decided that the building would be suitable for use as a theatre and in September 1964 the Everyman Theatre was opened by Martin Jenkins, Pete James and Terry Hands.






The revamped Everyman of the 70s
In 1975 the theatre closed and was rebuilt, its work being continued as a touring company until it re-opened in September 1977. During the 1970s and the 1980s works of Liverpool playwrights, including Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale, received debuts in the theatre: these included Shirley Valentine and John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert. In addition to plays, the theatre has produced musicals, concerts, and an annual rock-n-roll panto' each Christmas. During its time the theatre has been involved with the careers of Julie Walters, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Pryce, Pete Postlethwaite, Antony Sher, Bill Nighy, Barbara Dickson, Matthew Kelly, and Cathy Tyson. And that really is to name but a few.




More recently the Everyman programme ranged from classics such as Pete Postlethwaite’s King Lear, Jonathan Pryce in The Caretaker and David Morrissey’s Macbeth to world premières of plays by a new generation of Liverpool writers such as Robert Farquhar, Jonathan Larkin, Nick Leather, Michael McLean, Chloe Moss, Lizzie Nunnery, Stephen Sharkey, Esther Wilson and Laurence Wilson.


The original Everyman Bistro



The Theatre was also famous for the Everyman Bistro which was founded 35 years ago by Paddy Byrne and Dave Scott – later to be joined by Tim Byrne. In the basement of the old ‘Hope Hall’ with little more than a domestic cooker and a trestle table or two, Paddy and Dave turned out food that had never been seen in Liverpool: fresh food made with prime ingredients at low prices. Regrettably The Bistro closed for the redevelopment, however, when the new Theatre opens it promises to embody all the values of the original Bistro in the new.


The Everyman is managed together with Liverpool Playhouse by Liverpool and Merseyside Theatres Trust. Since 2004 The two theatres have worked to an integrated programme run by their artistic director and their executive director. Together they are registered as a charity known as Liverpool and Merseyside Theatres Trust Limited.


Letters on the facade of Liverpool's Everyman theatre were set alight to mark the closure


The Everyman closed its doors for the revamp on 2nd July 2011, With hundred attending and gathering in the street outside. The evening's public performance closed the road as it attempted a New Orleans funeral-style procession, complete with JCB digger. After a few words and a song, without ceremony or warning the famous red Everyman neon sign was plunged into darkness. Slowly, a replica of each letter came into view on the rooftop of the theatre and was set alight. As the flames warmed the crowds below, a spray painter was elevated up to the reassuringly ugly brown frontage to write "Be back soon" across the facade, well now it is back, and what a magnificent building has replaced the old one. The new incarnation of the 400-seat theatre was designed by architects Haworth Tompkins. The practice has also designed the proposed revamp of the Bristol Old Vic and The Shed at the National Theatre. The Everyman has a stylish new facade to replace the old low-key front. Some of the old bricks were recycled for use in the new building.

The New Everyman Theater


The Liverpool Everyman theatre re-opened in March 2014 after being shut for almost three years to be rebuilt. It opened with a an event entitled ' Lights Up' and an initial performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, starring Matthew Kelly and Nick Woodeson, who started their careers at the theatre in the 1970s. Matthew and Nick were part of the celebrated 1974 Everyman company alongside Bill Nighy, Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite.




The class of ’74: Where are they now?

1) Nicholas Le Prevost



Established stage actor, he recently appeared at the National Theatre in Alan Bennett’s play People.




2) Kate Fahy


 
Theatre, film and stage  actress who married Jonathan Pryce after meeting him at the Everyman.









3) Julie Walters



The stage and screen star is known by many for the Harry Potter series and her work with Victoria Wood.





4) Matthew Kelly



Despite training as an actor, he made his name on TV show Stars in Their Eyes. Returned to acting and won an Olivier Award for Of Mice and Men.








5) Nick Woodeson



Woodeson has a prolific career in films and television. He started in ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and recently appeared in Skyfall









6) Bill Nighy



The prolific actor is particularly known for his work with Richard Curtis.







7) Roger Phillips




After acting in the West End and Liverpool, Phillips moved into broadcasting and is now a presenter on Radio Merseyside.










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Sources

Everyman and Playhouse Theatres
Liverpool Echo
Guardian Newspapers
Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Records Office



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