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Historic Wood Green theatre to return for one night only - in Matalan store

06:30 12 February 2014

Youngsters take part in an earlier set of circus workshops in December. Picture: Ludo des Cognets

Youngsters take part in an earlier set of circus workshops in December. Picture: Ludo des Cognets

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Students are set to resurrect one of London’s premier theatres from the 20th Century - in a Matalan store.

"“This is an imaginative project that will give local young people the chance to research and recreate for One Night Only the all-but-forgotten theatrical history of their community."

Sue Bowers, Heritage Lottery Fund London

Jacksons Lane theatre, in Archway Road, Highgate, has won £9,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to recreate the historic Wood Green Empire venue in the Matalan store down the road from its original site, in Wood Green High Road.

The theatre, now almost unrecognisable from its heyday with a Halifax branch occupying the ground floor, hosted a huge variety of stars including Shirley Bassey and Morcambe and Wise, and was the site of the infamous on-stage shooting of performer Ching Lung Soo, who later died.

Called One Night Only, the performance will be the result of Jacksons Lane’s work with students from St Thomas More School in Glendale Avenue, who will research its history then work with an artist to bring the sights and sounds of the Empire back to life. The students will then perform in Matalan.

The students will visit Bruce Castle Museum, Matalan and Alexandra Palace as well as researching the stars who performed there, including Marie Lloyd, Bela Lugosi, Maria Callas, Morecambe and Wise, Shirley Bassey and of course Ching Lung Soo.

The Wood Green Empire in its heyday.The Wood Green Empire in its heyday.

Stuart Cox, participation manager at Jacksons Lane, which runs arts-based activities all over Haringey, said: “We are so excited about One Night Only. Matalan are being so supportive of the project and have allowed us to create a performance in the middle of their store. I hope their regular shoppers enjoy the surprise!”

Cheryl Rosen, head of drama at St Thomas More, said: “This is such an exciting project and our students can’t wait to find out more about the history of the Wood Green Empire.”

Sue Bowers, head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “This is an imaginative project that will give local young people the chance to research and recreate for One Night Only the all-but-forgotten theatrical history of their community.”

The grand theatre, designed by the man behind the London Palladium, opened in September 1912 with a capacity of 1,840.

It entertained audiences until 1955 when it was taken over, restructured and used as a television studio, hosting the Morcambe And Wise Show among others, until the early 1960s when it was vacated.

The performance takes place at the end of March.

+ Jacksons Lane would like any local budding historians out there to get in touch with any research or photos they might have on the Wood Green Empire. Anyone who can help is asked to email Stuart Cox at stuart@jacksonslane.org.uk.

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