20 years on, The Boulevard has just got a makeover. Today, it stands as Europe’s most advanced revolving theatre. We had a peak inside…
Soho was a rather different place in the 80s, a whirlwind of neon lights, records stores, and strip clubs. Like a lot of London, gentrification has changed the place immeasurably, but the new Boulevard Theatre bridges the gap a little bit – cherishing a little bit of Soho’s past, whilst looking forward to its place in the modern theatre scene.
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That’s because this isn’t the first Soho spot to bear the Boulevard Theatre name; the first was a theatre and comedy club owned by porn baron and ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond. Attracting names like Eddie Izzard, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, and Rik Mayall, the theatre had its heyday in the 80s as a hotbed of alternative comedy.
Now, another member of the Raymond clan has brought the theatre back to prominence. Raymond’s granddaughter Fawn James (Director of Soho Estates) has spearheaded the theatre’s transformation from has-been to hi-tech performance space, part of the wider redevelopment of Walker’s Court. A 165-seat playhouse means it’s a snug theatre, but a fully revolving auditorium and balcony makes it a highly adaptable space, easily changed up depending on the production.
James and her team have put together a vibrant programme of art for the Boulevard Theatre, as it opens its doors to the public for the first time in over 20 years. We were lucky enough to go along and enjoy the full experience: enjoying a pre-theatre dinner in their retro restaurant before taking a seat in the wonderful theatre space itself…
We headed up in the lift and across the glass bridge to the stunning, art-deco style restaurant and lounge.
The brass interior and plush pink walls adorned by contemporary art sees 50s diner vibes meet the 21st century – all warmed by soft boudoir-style lighting. Vibrant yet unfussy, their menu focuses on quality ingredients treated well, and is populated with affordable options, as well as more indulgent fare.
Dishes are plant-based unless otherwise suggested – so while vegans will have a field day with spiced squash tarts and falafel burgers, meat and fish eaters can also choose from a selection of apricot stuffed Rhug Estate lamb, confit sea trout, steaks, burgers and pork chops. We recommend the baked aubergine with butterbean, tomato, rocket, and walnut for plant-warriors!
For dessert, the ice cream sundae with peanut brownie and salted caramel definitely sounds drool-worthy, but we were recommended the chocolate almond olive oil cake with whisky custard and vanilla ice cream, which certainly went down a treat!
Once our bellies were lovely and full, we headed up the hanging metal spiral staircase staircase (not without taking a moment to gaze out of the double height window and take a look at the 24-hour buzz of Soho) to catch the first performance to take to the new Boulevard’s stage – ‘Ghost Quartet’.
This intoxicating musical about love, loss and spirits was made by The Boulevard’s circular stage, providing every audience member with an intimate experience as characters moved freely and with no boundaries. The show was brought to life by the acoustics of the theatre, and while the show and the characters alone were sensational, this would not have been the same dynamic, unforgettable performance in any other theatre.
The Boulevard Theatre aims to put on four shows a year, with a strong focus on emerging writers. It’ll all happen under the guidance of artistic director Rachel Edwards, who recently took a production of Sweeney Todd all the way from Tooting to the West End and New York. In between shows, the theatre will offer a grab bag of entertainment, with comedy, music, cabaret, and film all in the offing.
So much history and heritage has been reborn in this stylish Soho space, and a visit to the venue will not disappoint. Though the shows may be a little tamer than the days of Raymond’s Revuebar, you can still expect a wildly intimate an dynamic theatre experience at The Boulevard Theatre!
Also published on Medium.