First Act & The Jubilee Theatre
The Jubilee Theatre is a wonderful example of a Victorian proscenium arch theatre, which was completed in 1899 by John W. Dyson. Located in St. Nicholas' Hospital, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne. The Jubilee's stage is said to be a smaller scale replica Newcastle's Theatre Royal - it isn't, but it was used until 1954 for rehearsals for the Theatre Royal pantomimes. In its day it has played host to many stars, including Laurel and Hardy.
The Jubilee Theatre is a Grade II listed building and has a beautiful proscenium arch of Doulton tiles by William James Neatby (1860-1910) - the only other major example of Neatby's tiles are in Harrod's Food Hall, London. The proscenium shows a striking composition, depicting two pre-Raphaelite figures playing musical instruments and seated amongst swirling branches with flowers festooned round a tree trunk. The central cartouche is a female mask.
When the Hospital Trust invited First Act Theatre to take up residence in the theatre in 1992, it was basically a beautiful stage area in an impressive hall, which had been recently used for warehousing. Ugly strip lighting hung from an otherwise impressive ceiling, there was no theatre sound or lighting equipment and major safety work was needed before it could be granted a Theatre Licence. But we saw the enormous potential to return this little gem back to it's proper use.
With grants from the Foundation for Sports and the Arts and the National Lottery Arts Fund, together with our own fundraising and sponsorship, we were able to purchase a professional standard, sophisticated sound and lighting system for the theatre. New raked seating brought the theate capacity to over 250 and an induction loop system for the hard of hearing was also been installed.
Over recent years we have also been able to make further improvements: in 1998 funding from the Jacobson Family Trust and Northern Electric enabled us to renew the house lighting in the theatre with a more appropriate dimming down and uplighter system and make much needed improvements to the front of house lighting system. At the end of 2001, with the assistance of funding from the Northern Rock Foundation, we built a 6m diameter de-mountable stage revolve to increase the flexibility of staging shows and to allow fast, slick scene changes.