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Lyric Hammersmith Theatre's 125th birthday – a life in photos

The west London stage has seen its fair share of stunning performances

The cast of Spring Awakening – the UK premiere launched the careers of many including Aneurin Barnard, Evelyn Hoskins, Natasha Barnes, Iwan Rheon and Charlotte Wakefield
© Helen Maybanks

The iconic Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in west London turns 125 today, having been a theatrical powerhouse since the late 19th century.

With that in mind, we've got a variety of production images from some of the theatre's most iconic productions past and present. Here's to the next 125!

The theatre has also announced a brand new "Born in the Borough" scheme. Parents and guardians can register their child with the Lyric if they are resident in and have been born in the borough between the 20 July 2020 and the 20 July 2021. Once the theatre reopens these children will be offered free opportunities to take part in and enjoy the arts throughout their first 25 years.

Artistic director Rachel O'Riordan said: "I believe passionately in equality of opportunity in access to theatre. Whatever your background, everyone should be able to enjoy the life enhancing experience of theatre in their lives. As an artistic director I've always known that community is the lifeblood of a producing theatre. My hope is that ‘Born in the Borough' will ensure that all our '125 Babies' will have that chance and develop a lifelong love of the arts. And within them, there may even be the next Ian McKellen or Noma Dumezweni."

McKellen made his London debut on the Lyric stage in 1959, with more recent stars to come from the theatre including Hammed Animashaun, Aneurin Barnard, Karl Queensborough, Iwan Rheon and Charlotte Wakefield .

Bugsy Malone (2015)

Bugsy Malone, which reopened the theatre after a redevelopment in 2015
© Manuel Harlan

Director Sean Holmes: "It's thanks to the great generosity of Alan Parker, the maker of the original film , that we were able to open the newly rebuilt Lyric with this ode to the drive and potential of young people. A cracking artistic team, a committed and talented cast and audiences hungry for communion and transcendence made it an unforgettable time for us all. And a special mention to the dedicated and selfless support of the child performer's parents , the unsung heroes of the whole enterprise."

Company stage manager Claire Bryan: "Our most pressing task was to find the best splurge gun and splurge! We tried marshmallow shooters, catapults, dog ball throwers, massive syringes and a variety of homemade launching devices. Once the right gun was found I then fired an assortment of food items at Lucy Holland my (willing) ASM, she was hit with cream, custard, profiteroles, marshmallows, macaroons, balloons and angel delight! The latter winning hands down. Such good fun!"

The House of Bernarda Alba (1986)

Glenda Jackson as Bernarda Alba and Joan Plowright as La Poncia
©Donald Cooper/Photostage

The production of Lorca's classic was directed by Nuria Espert with two titans – Jackson and Plowright – in the cast. The piece won the venue its first ever Olivier Award in 1986. Many more were to follow.

Noises Off (1982 and 2019)

Patricia Routledge (Dotty Otley), Paul Eddington (Lloyd Dallas) in Noises Off
© Donald Cooper
Meera Syal as Dotty, Lois Chimimba as Poppy and Lloyd Owen as Lloyd
© Helen Maybanks

Playwright Michael Frayn: "What the read-through of the 2019 production reminded me of, was not so much my difficulties as author, but the skill and courage of all the thousands of actors who have performed the play since – and of the slightly insane confidence displayed by Jeremy Herrin, and of every other director who over the years has looked at the tangle of stage directions on the pages of Act Two and thought that they could somehow manage to give them three-dimensional physical form.

"Particularly, of course, of Michael Blakemore, the director of that first production here in Hammersmith, who had no precedents to encourage him. He persuaded me to restructure and rewrite, and also suggested a great many new ideas. Without him the play would have gone no further."

Spring Awakening (2009)

The cast of Spring Awakening – the UK premiere launched the careers of many including Aneurin Barnard, Evelyn Hoskins, Natasha Barnes, Iwan Rheon and Charlotte Wakefield
© Helen Maybanks

Anueurin Barnard: "Spring Awakening and the Lyric Theatre was the greatest large stepping stone O was gifted with at the beginning of my career. It was the warmest, most creatively cosy theatre to work in. I miss it very much still, even now a decade later. I had the privilege of leading a great show with insanely talented colourful people. It was a joy from beginning to end and I will never forget the theatre and people I was lucky enough to work with."

Natasha Barnes: "The Lyric was my first professional theatre. I was so proud of my performers lanyard, of my dressing room space and my daily commute to the building. I remember Spring Awakening as a haze of meeting people. The team front of house and the technical staff behind seemed to buzz with as much excitement as our young company. I want to thank you Lyric, for the gift of the stage and the audiences but also for exiting the theatre straight into the foyer – often into a frenzy of adolescent and adult excitement alike – it was a magical time I have yet to re-capture since."

Abbacadabra (1983)

ABBACADABRA music: Bjorn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson story: Alain & Daniel Boubil book: David Wood lyrics: Don Black, Mike Batt & Bjorn Ulvaeus set design: Jenny Tiramani costumes: Sue Blane lighting: Andrew Bridge choreography: Anthony van Laast director: Peter James. Elaine Paige (Carabosse)
© Donald Cooper/Photostage

Using the music of ABBA on stage for the first time, the success of this production led to further development of what would become Mamma Mia!.

The Seagull (1985)

John Hurt and Samantha Eggar
© Donald Cooper / Photostage

Charles Sturridge directed this production of Chekhov's classic in 1985, with a starry cast including John Hurt and Samantha Eggar.

Morte D'Arthur (1990)

Joe Dixon (centre) as Galahad in Morte D'Arthur
© Donald Cooper/Photostage

Howard Meaden (Lyric theatre manager): "Having spent the best part of 12 years at the theatre I have many treasured memories of my time there: the international work that Peter James programmed was always exciting and sometimes challenging; David Freeman's production of Morte D'Arthur was a particularly interesting project performed in four parts over two evenings (or a full day) and including the requirement for the audience to move between the theatre and St Paul's Church, where it was staged in promenade, at each performance - quite a challenge for the Front of House staff."

The Birthday Party 50th anniversary (2008)

The Birthday Party, Lyric Hammersmith, production shot
© Simon Kane 2008

Director David Farr on the show, led by Sheila Hancock: "The Birthday Party was just a treat. 50 years anniversary of the play on the very same stage, and with a sick but defiant Pinter giving the thank you speech on opening night. Unforgettable moments for me. I think Justin Salinger gave a defining performance of Stanley. Pinter said it had never been done better. I still have the letter he wrote to me afterwards on my desk. 'What a Night!' he began. What a night indeed."

A Doll's House (2019)

Anjana Vasan in A Doll's House
© Helen Maybanks

Tanika Gupta's brand new version of Ibsen's play was Rachel O'Riordan's first show as artistic director – it wowed audiences and won lead star Anjana Vasan a nomination for an Evening Standard Award.

Ghost Stories (2010)

The original production of Ghost Stories
© Helen Maybanks

Jeremy Dyson, Sean Holmes and Andy Nyman's cult hit transferred to the West End, with worldwide productions, a film and then recent revival and tour. All the best kind of chills.