Last night I went to Wilton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel for the first time.
Apart from knowing that Wilton’s is the oldest remaining example of a traditional Music Hall in the world I knew very little about this building and I was quite unprepared to discover what a gem it actually is!
I was invited together with some other theatrebloggers to Wilton’s Music Hall on a very special night where it officially reopened to the public following four years of repair works.
Originally opening as a Music Hall nearly 200 years ago, Wilton’s has a fascinating history which you can read about here but which I would love to learn more. According to the gentleman I was sitting next to (he used to live in the building when his Father was a caretaker in the 1950s) Wilton’s has survived a serious fire, a bomb and has also been a rag factory and a Methodist Church.
With lots of charitable funding it reopened as a Music Hall in the 1990s and since been renovated further and it thrilling to be at the unveiling last night. Wilton’s has now opened up 40% of the building which was previously inaccessible as well as repairing the main hall.
It still looks run-down and shabby with the bare brick exposed and crumbling facade but that is all part of it’s charm, it is great to visit a venue where you are transported back in time. You are immersed in it’s history and providing you are not sat immediately behind one of the ten barley twist columns that still support the balcony or don’t mind the rather uncomfortable chairs you will get a completely unique experience.
Oh yes the show!
The Sting | Review
For the first production after the works, Artistic and Managing Director Frances Mayhew made a curious choice. Instead of choosing a piece that reflects the Music Hall era she settled on 1930s Chicago with an adaptation of the 1973 film version of The Sting by David Rogers.
Two con-men Hooker (Bob Cryer) and Gondorff (Ross Forder) conspire to avenge the death of a friend by working together with a whole variety of hired gangsters and molls to con notorious mob leader Lonnegan (John Chancer) out of his illicitly gained cash.
Before the show starts the cast mingle with the audience, singing, playing cards, shining shoes and teaching them conning tricks which really sets a great atmosphere, as does entering the Grand Hall and hearing the sultry tones of Nina Kristofferson singing and setting the scene.
Despite all this, the show is slow to start and Chicago accents are so heavily laid on making it sometimes difficult to tune in, as the play gains momentum however (and Gondorff sounded less like Gandalf) it turned into a very entertaining evening, particularly in the second act when the scam all comes together and we prepare for the final con otherwise known as ‘The Sting’.
David Rogers’ script is slick and the cast do a stirring job, the staging is minimal and the space used well even using the gallery on occasion. Music is provided by a lone pianist (Ashley Henry) which I thought was a lovely touch.
You can read more about The Sting here along with booking information.
But the star of the show? Wilton’s itself – I hope to return again very soon and learn more about it’s fascinating history.
I went to see the Sting with some glorious theatrebloggers to find out about theatrebloggers you can go to www.theatrebloggers.co.uk