There are many experts throughout the world who argue that one of the best indicators of trends and style in any given time period is the way that each period’s theatres are designed. From grand, regal Victorian style theatres to modern, contemporary spaces, there is something about the design of a performance space that brings the best and the most interesting out of any architect and designer.
According to Race Furniture, “theatre design is an essential part of the overall theatre performance”. It does so much more than provide a space for patrons to sit and witness a show; it actively contributes to the tone and vibe of a production. Any well produced stage show can have the power to transport you to another world, but have you ever considered just how much the design of the theatre you are watching it in affects your experience and your feelings? To help illustrate the importance of this, here are some of the most prominent must see theatre designs across Europe.
Theatre Mogador, France
Located in the beating heart of Paris’s 9th arrondissement, the Theatre Mogador is a more modern building than some of the French capital’s more antique offerings, but it packs just as much of a punch. Designed by prestigious English theatre architect Bertie Crewe, The Mogador has always been a place that is dedicated to putting the most grandiose and transformative musical shows such as Cats, Les Misérables, and Beauty and The Beast. It was opened in 1913 and then renovated in 1983, and in its current guise, houses 1600 plush red seats on three levels in a neo-classical style, gilded auditorium complete with domed ceiling. There might be more prominent theatres in the French capital, but perhaps none as quintessential as the Mogador.
Great Theatre, Epidaurus, Greece
Greece is the first country that comes to mind when you think of ancient theatrical tradition, and the natural simplicity of the Epidaurus theatre is something that has inspired future architects for millennia. Built in the 4th century BC, the still relatively intact amphitheatre is a magnificent structure, using geometrical simplicity to bring together the stage, audience, and overall landscape. The theatre boasts legendary acoustics that use the vastness of the open air rather than an enclosed roof to carry the lines to the audience’s ears.
Grosses Schauspielhaus, Germany
Famous for being one of the structures that the Nazi regime attempted to cover up as ‘degenerate art’, the Grosses Schauspielhaus is an interesting architectural feat that feels incredibly ahead of its time in terms of the stalactite visual style of design. Architect Hans Poelzig certainly had a clear vision in mind when creating this expressionist landmark, with many people referencing the inside of the auditorium as being equal parts circus tent and cave. Sadly, the original theatre was demolished in 1988 and a new one built in its place, the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Many photographs remain of the original that capture the magnificence of its design.
National Theatre, England
London has its fair share of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian theatres to enjoy, but the National Theatre also has a curious beauty of its own. Constructed in 1976, the theatre was intended to celebrate the notion of the ‘fourth theatre’, the theatre created by the audience as they move through the stairs, foyers, and balconies. Providing views of the river and the city outside, the theatre feels very much a part of the fabric of London culture, a vast concrete structure that imposes itself on the landscape, with an interesting design addition being that the concrete actually boasts a wood like effect thank to the imprint of timber on its surface. Prince Charles once described the National as being “like a nuclear power station”, but it is now recognised as a tour de force of brutalist architecture.
Teatro Scientifico, Italy
Northern Italy is a region blessed with numerous beautiful theatres, but arguably none more beautiful than the Teatro Scientifico. Located in Mantua and designed by Antonio Bibiena, the theatre opened in 1769 and remains active to this day. Truly vast and sprawling, the architect designed with the intentions of creating a miniature town structure all within the confines of a theatre. The closeness of the four separate levels of boxes encourages patrons to communicate and engage with one another rather than keeping their theatre experience a solitary one, and the way that the tiers wrap around the auditorium evokes the shape of a bell, leaving everyone feeling very intimately close together. Unlike many more traditional theatre designs, the sight lines of this interesting curved bell shape are just as much across the auditorium as they are towards the stage, making each performance feel very inclusive.