Oct 29 2008 by Vicky Anderson, Liverpool Daily Post
?41m plan to rebuild the Everyman Theatre
LIVERPOOL?S famous Everyman Theatre will be demolished and a ?41m theatre created on its current site.
The massive project, which also includes a complete refit of its sister theatre, The Playhouse, has already secured ?6m of funding, and is now identified as the city?s key arts priority.
Despite hosting some of the cultural highlights of 2008, improving the Hope Street venue and its sister theatre is described as a ?most urgent priority? in a new independent report.
The head of the theatres? own trust has called them both ?unfit for purpose?. A new ?41m scheme is to be put into place to tear down the legendary theatre, although it is stressed that it is of the utmost importance to keep the ethos and ambience so beloved by the people of Merseyside ? and the theatrical talents who look back so fondly at the time spent at the Everyman over the years ? as well as providing a lasting cultural legacy from 2008.
Professor Michael Brown, chair-man of Liverpool and Merseyside Theatre Trust, said: ?This is a major step forward. We realise everyone loves the Everyman and we are reconciled that we have to do this so as to recreate the same atmosphere.
?It will have the facilities for making sets, costumes, all the things you would expect in a modern theatre.
?Once it is up and running, we will close the Playhouse for a while and refit it sensitively for a Grade II Listed building.
?There will also be a smaller theatre for experimental work and writing and rehearsal rooms.?
The urgency of the work has been highlighted in an independent report, commissioned by the Arts Council England North West and funded by the NWDA.
That the Everyman and Playhouse should be Liverpool?s priority ? the Philharmonic Hall is seen as the second priority for funding ? has been agreed by the city?s other major performance venues.
The securing of ?6m from the Arts Council England North West means fundraising is now under way, with bids for funding from other public bodies as well as private appeals.
The physical infrastructure at the two theatres is described by Prof Brown as ?shot?.
There are major areas of concern, including the functional state of the dressing rooms, problems with air conditioning in summer, obscured views, and ancient equipment coming to the end of its useful life.
The demolition of the Everyman would include the popular bistro in its basement.
Not only problematic for audience and employees, Prof Brown says the state of the theatres has an impact on the talent they can attract.
?It is not fit for purpose and Liverpool and Merseyside deserve better,? he continues.
?The theatres are doing wonderfully well ? the Adelphi musical has won awards and there are other things coming up, including King Lear with Pete Postlethwaite.
?There has been a great artistic element to this year, but we cannot carry on expecting the audience to put up with what they have been, and we can?t get top performers coming to us because conditions are appalling.?
A joint statement released last night from the NWDA, Arts Council England North West and Liverpool City Council said: ?In the current difficult economic climate, it is vital that robust decisions are made about where investment should be directed.
?[We] welcome this report as a basis for constructive discussion on the way forward for Liverpool?s performing venues, building on the momentum created by Liverpool 08 and providing an impetus to build on its legacy.?
Funding will need to be secured from the NWDA, public appeal, the city council (which has pledged future support although will not make any money available in 2009) and from the last of the EU money ringfenced for the Liverpool city region, which must be spent in the next three years or be lost.
The plan, if successful, will ?save the Everyman?, according to Prof Brown. If not, ?it will slowly die?.
He added: ?We cannot continue to make people work there and the Everyman can?t get quality work and actors coming to us. The dressing rooms are appalling, all the scenery moving gear is at the end of its life. It isn?t up to standard to do the work for which the Everyman was, is, and should be known for.
?People have very fond memories of the Everyman and we respect that.
?We want to recreate the same atmosphere with modern facilities, and we will do that.?
Work on the Everyman is ex-pected to take 18 months; and on the Playhouse, just under a year.
THE site of Everyman had several incarnations, including a chapel and a cinema, before being established as a theatre in 1964.
Since then it has become one of Liverpool?s best loved landmarks that has launched the career of a host of household names.
Writers including Willy Russell (who wrote Shirley Valentine for the theatre) and Alan Bleasedale and actors including Julie Walters, Jonathan Pryce, Matthew Kelly and Bill Nighy passed through the doors in its 1970s heyday.
Two regional talents inspired by the Everyman who went on to international fame are Hoylake-born Daniel Craig and Warrington lad Pete Postlethwaite.
?The Everyman was a big part of my life growing up. I saw some of the best actors of their generation and it was a home-from-home for me at the time,? said the James Bond actor.
Postlethwaite, returning to the venue next week to begin a month-long run as King Lear, looks back at his time at the theatre as ?the most extraordinary, fascinating, dangerous time, when I realised this was what I was born to do.?
The adjoining Everyman bistro, in the basement of the building, has been a favourite venue of foodies and wine lovers for 35 years.
The Everyman and Playhouse theatres joined together as the Liverpool and Merseyside Theatres Trust in 1999.
The two theatres have spearheaded some of the most talked about theatre of Capital of Culture year, including two musicals, Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi and Eric?s.
Daily Post arts editor Phil Key, who has followed events at the Everyman since the beginning, said: ?Obviously, people who like the Everyman will be disappointed the old building is going, but it was getting a little bit run down. It had improved in recent months and is still a pleasant venue and pleasurable to go to, but it needed to be knocked down and rebuilt rather than patched up.
?It will still maintain that history and still be on that historic site.?