Monday, 13 September 2010

Apollo Victoria, Wilton Road SW1

The Apollo Victoria theatre was originally built in 1928 by E. Walmsley Lewis as a monster cinema for Gaumont, whose executive architect was William E. Trent. As a result, the name Trent crops up a lot in the design credits for Gaumonts of the period, including W. Sydney Trent and Newbury A. Trent, an admirable example of keeping it in the family.
Newbury Trent did these frothy little bas reliefs for the main entrance. They show an audience watching a romance (on the left) and a drama (on the right).
They watch the romance impassively but the scene of a lady being knifed in the back elicits violent reactions - women faint, shriek or hide their eyes in their hands. One man even rises to his feet and puts up his fists, threatening to fight the assailant.
But the couple to the left of centre are oblivious to the screen, locked in their embrace in both pictures.
Incidentally, the knifing is very reminiscent of Hitchcock's Psycho. I bet Hitch knew the Apollo in its cinematic heyday.
An interesting detail is the figure of Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp on the responds of the entrance, presumably also designed by Trent (left). The comical feet-out, hands-out posture is captured perfectly.
The figure is repeated on the Vauxhall Bridge Road entrance, but strangely different (right). It is shorter, squatter and the bowler hat is at a slightly more rakish angle. It has a more feminine air - as if Trent had put Vesta Tilley doing Charlie Chaplin on that side. Odd.

1 comment:

The Duke of Waltham said...

Ooh, I love the style of this one. No film ratings back then—look at the poor child hiding behind (her?) mother on the far right. I must confess that I am not sure what the smoking gentleman is doing in the second relief; he seems to be... stretching. The man with the top hat (below the screen on the right) is also interesting. He appears to be discussing the plot with the two viewers next to him.