The Hackney Empire was built as a music hall in 1901, on Mare Street in Hackney. The theatre has one of the most elaborate interior designs of all the off-West End theatres including a framed stage which calls back to its history as a popular venue for variety and music performances.
Located near Hackney train station, the theatre was threatened with demolition in the mid-1980s but actor-manager, Roland Muldoon, held a campaign in 1986 which eventually granted him the freehold to re-open the Hackney Empire as a permanent performance space. The salvation of the venue was celebrated, with its return performance being held on its 85th anniversary, and the theatre is now a Grade II listed building.
The theatre was designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham and many of the biggest names during the ‘golden age of entertainment’ have performed at the venue, including Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stanley Holloway, Stan Laurel and Marie Lloyd.
In recent years, the Hackney Empire has had many great modern performers on its stage, playing host to the Almeida’s production of Hamlet in 1995 starring Ralph Fiennes and Francesca Annis.
In 2001, having gained an excellent reputation, the Hackney Empire undertook a £17 million refurbishment project designed by Tim Ronalds Architects, and the new theatre consultants, Carr and Angier. It was reopened in 2004 and is now able to seat 1,275 audience members. For people looking to experience theatre at the Hackney Empire, bear in mind that the best way to reach the theatre is by bus or TFL’s Overground line.