Saturday, July 21, 2018

Full Circle, A: 100 Years of the Gaiety Theatre
Full Circle, A: 100 Years of the Gaiety Theatre
Keith Uren Publishing, Hardcover, 12 June, 2000
Author: Roy McMillan
ISBN: 0953862801
List Price: £19.95
Used Price: £25.26
Third Party Price: £20.00
Availability: Limited availability
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Customer Reviews

A Full Circle
A Full Circle, by Roy McMillan, is a history of the Gaiety Theatre in Douglas, Isle of Man. It might be described as a coffee table book because of its large, glossy format and beautiful, abundant photographs. However, thanks to the author, it is much more than that.

The Gaiety Theatre was built in 1900 by renowned theatre designer Frank Matcham (responsible for the London Palladium, London Coliseum and Hackney Empire amongst many other glorious buildings), and A Full Circle celebrates 100 years of the Theatre’s history. Despite being very successful in its early days, the Theatre was gradually allowed to fall into a state of serious disrepair. It is clear from this book that returning the Theatre to its former glory has truly been a labour of love– an astonishing tale of luck, perseverance and enthusiasm overcoming many years of neglect, indifference and unsympathetic restoration.

The author has been extremely thorough in his research, but is never tedious or dull. Rather, he is witty, erudite and fluent, and obviously a lover of the Theatre himself. Here he describes the Gaiety’s sorry condition in the 1970’s:‘As a place of entertainment, it had all the inconvenience and discomfort of an outdoor theatre without the concomitant sense of properly taking on Nature and beating her. It is a proud achievement of the British to believe that sitting in the damp, getting cold and being unable to see or hear the performance properly is the optimal method to enjoy high art.’

I read this book with no previous knowledge of the subject matter and found it both informative and entertaining. Perhaps the ultimate praise is that A Full Circle really makes you want to go and see the Theatre itself. I was lucky enough to be able to do this in September 2003 and it was fascinating to see for real all the wonderful features which had been described so vividly.

Anyone interested in social history or tales of triumph over adversity will enjoy A Full Circle, but it is a must for anyone interested in Victorian theatre, as the Gaiety is a classic of its kind and one of the few still actually in use as a theatre.

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