This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol6", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
Fig. 6. Elevation to Charing Cross Road.
The entrances to the pit and gallery are both obtained in a back lane, a very excellent arrangement, as all "lining-up " in advance of the opening of the theatre doors occurs in a long lane or passage-way which is private to the theatre, and so causes no obstruction to the general traffic along the street. The doors are not side by side, and so separate queues can be formed to each. The stairs to the pit lead downwards and wind considerably, but like all others they are in straight flights of not less than three nor more than thirteen steps, in accordance with the London regulations. An emergency exit from the pit is brought up to the front close to the entrance to the box office. The gallery entrance in the back lane is up stairs which wind above those going down to the pit, and it is of some interest to trace them along the various plans, showing how eventually they reach the back of the gallery almost in the centre at the very top of the house, while an emergency exit is contrived at the stage end of the auditorium near the front, by stairs which pass down above the royal private room.
The auditorium is seated on a slightly rising floor at the pit level, with straight rows of seats, but on all the other levels the seats are arranged in horseshoe form, with private boxes on the straight portions of the horseshoe which are nearest the stage. The seating thus permits everybody to see and hear, and a glance at the section will show how the various tiers rise at different angles in order that this may be accomplished, the object being to give everyone a sight of the front of the stage as well as of the back, and if possible of the whole of it from side to side. At the pit level the whole is one open space, with the exception of a saloon or bar contrived under the main entrance, and of the necessary retiring-rooms. On the other floors the auditorium proper is cut off from the stairs and other adjuncts by means of a segmental wall parallel to the last row of seats on the horseshoe, and separated from it by a passage-way. At the boxes level the space behind this wall is given up to cloak-rooms and the grand vestibule, out of which there rises a staircase leading to a large room, known as the "grand saloon," which occurs at the upper boxes level, forming a handsome apartment in which suppers can be given if necessary. At that level also there is a small bar to serve the upper boxes, while an almost similar arrangement occurs at the gallery level.
Of course, there is a great deal of steel work in the construction, as all the upper tiers of seats are carried on girders and columns.
Although, on the plan at the boxes level, the stage appears to be open to the auditorium, it is actually separated off by what is known as the proscenium opening, and the stage is a distinct part of the theatre. On the plans of the upper boxes and gallery levels the stage is shown as a large open space with flies, or, in other words, balconies, round at the higher level above the proscenium opening as shown on the section, there being also at that level what is known as the " gridiron " covering the whole space for the management of scenery. Below the stage itself are two basement levels, mostly for storage and scenery purposes, and for the working of trap doors; while, as shown on the plan at the pit level, an entrance is thus managed for the band to the space for the orchestra in front of the stage, it being possible for them to reach it either from the dressing-rooms or from the stalls.
There are two entrances to the stage from Charing Cross Road, one of them leading by means of a staircase into the flies, while the other opens direct from the street into the basement at the back of the stage, and is intended for the introduction of scenery. It is designed as a tall narrow opening for this purpose, as will be seen by reference to the elevation. From the stage there is a slope downwards on the north side, which passes under the back lane to a basement series of dressing-rooms. These dressing-rooms are arranged as an entirely separate house, and are as complete as those in any theatre in London, there being three distinct rooms on each floor, together with lavatories and even a bathroom. These are all externally lighted, but naturally are used more at night-time than during the day.
By way of summary, it may be pointed out again that the principal points to aim at are complete department-ation, so that the dressing-rooms, the stage, and the auditorium are practically distinct, capable of being perfectly separated in case of fire, while separate exits, ample in number, are provided from every part; and even from the stage it will be seen that there are exits to the right, in front, and to the dressing-room annexe in the rear. The staircases need extreme care in planning, and all corners in them should be rounded. In the auditorium it is necessary that every seat should have a full view of the stage, and the slopes both of the floor and the stage itself, and of the various galleries, have to be arranged with this object. Lighting and ventilation have also to be carefully attended to, but acoustic properties are almost sure to be good if the horseshoe plan is adopted with a passage-way behind the auditorium, and the seats in galleries rising one above another, and if there be ample ventilation.