Streatham Hill Theatre's Night of glamour

By: Craig White, General Manager, Beacon Bingo

When Cole Porter wrote “What is this thing called love?” he hadn’t set foot in the Streatham Hill Theatre, but on a warm Wednesday night, 20th November 1929,  his popular aria rang out through the newest and most decadent addition to the Streatham skyline, ushering in a new era of high society in South London. 

Opening to a full house of over 2500, Charles B Cochran’s production of “Wake Up and Dream” set the tone for Streatham’s great love affair with theatre; a love which continues today with the impending arrival of a new space for the arts at the site of the old Megabowl development.

Walking into the grand foyer, you’re transported back to a time when architecture valued beauty and opulence, where a trip to the theatre was a chance to rub shoulders with the elite and the stars. Legendary figures such as John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Lawrence Olivier took to the stage and wowed audiences, and it’s hard for any theatre buff not to feel the magic walking through the old hall today. It’s indeed hard not to fall in love with the building; the history, beauty and attention to detail in everything from the ornate chandelier in the lobby to the patterns and swirls adorning the undisturbed carpets of the upper floors.

In the last few years, the club has opened its doors to the community after years on the periphery of the public eye in the face of the growing threat of closure that haunts bingo clubs. Theatre fans felt one of the few remaining icons of a glorious past was being hidden. Having worked here for almost three years I understand why.

I’ll admit to a vested interest in the success of the club. As General Manager; it's my job, but as a writer and admirer of the arts, it’s my duty to raise awareness of the building and its history.  Beacon Bingo was thrilled to be awarded “Best Shopfront or Interior” at the 2016 Streatham Business Awards as we continually invest in maintaining this Grade II listed building to keep the story of this great theatre alive.

On November 26th we’ll cast our eye back to the roaring twenties when the Streatham Hill Theatre was the place to see and be seen in South London. The original decor provided the backdrop for an event celebrating the building. Over 200 visitors for the event last year created an atmosphere rarely seen since 1962 when the first bingo session took place.

This year will be even more spectacular. For the first time in 54 years, we’ll see theatre return home with a new preview show that combines our love of bingo and the stage. It may not be Cole Porter or Lawrence Olivier, but it’s a start, and 87 years since the first curtain opened, we’ll once again get a chance to wake up and dream.