The Hackney Empire is a theatre on Mare Street, in Hackney, that was built in 1901 as a music hall. Located near Hackney Central train station, the venue has one of the most highly decorated interiors in an off-West End theatre, which frames the stage, and is indicative of its past as a music hall venue.
Hackney Empire is a Grade II listed building. The venue was designed by Frank Matcham. Many of entertainment’s greats have passed through the venue in E8: Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stanley Holloway, Stan Laurel, and Marie Lloyd have all performed there.
The theatre was threatened with demolition in the mid-1980s and in 1986, actor-manager Roland Muldoon mounted a campaign to acquire the freehold and to re-open the Hackney Empire as a permanent performance space, allowing the theatre to return to theatrical use for its 85th anniversary.
The Hackney Empire played host to the Almeida’s production of Hamlet in 1995 starring Ralph Fiennes as Hamlet and Francesca Annis as Gertrude.
In 2001, the Empire closed for a £17 million refurbishment project designed by Tim Ronalds Architects with Carr and Angier acting as theatre consultants. It was reopened in 2004. Because of its refurbishment, the theatre is now able to seat 1,275 audience members.
Those looking to make a trip down to the Hackney Empire should keep in mind that there are no tube stops in the area. The venue is best reached by bus or TFL’s Overground line.