Fawn James and Rachel Edwards at the Launch Party
The Boulevard Theatre used to have one-door access next to the Raymond Revuebar in Walker’s Court, yet many a household name of today walked through that door and played on its stage. Many others walked by, oblivious to some of the magic that was going on inside. Now, after ten years of development, with Fawn James (Granddaughter of the late and loveable Svengali of Soho, Paul Raymond) at its helm, the new Boulevard has arrived.
No mistaking the entrance this time, you can see the wonderful glass facade from either end of Walker’s Court, even from upper Berwick Street. Audience members will enter from Peter Street (on the top corner of Walker’s Court), walk, or get a lift, to the first floor, and cross over and through the glass façade into the old site which now houses eateries, bar areas, rehearsal rooms, and best of all, a state of the art performance space with audience and stage revolves that can adapt and change as required.
In short, this is a fashionably designed hi-tech all-purpose mini-cultural-metropolis. Lots of hyphens there, yes, because the new Boulevard is, and will be, many combined things for many different people. A new hub for the locals, and a new Soho attraction for the uninitiated. There’s still lots of fun to be had in Soho, and I sense this multi-purpose building will be at the heart of it. But has it opened yet? Not quite. Then, how do I know all this? Well….
Having been a participant in the shaping of the old theatre, I was privileged to be invited to their Launch Party, to mingle with some old friends and meet a few of the new Boulevardians. First, we were treated to champers and delicious canapes in the welcoming first floor bar area, everyone happily chatting away, before being invited to the next floor to view the performance space. A pleasant jazz band helped us tap our feet in anticipation of our hosts taking to the microphone. I, and a couple of pals, crept up to the next flight (where part of the seating revolves) to get a grand view of the whole, just in time to see Fawn and Rachel Edwards (Artistic Director) take the stage.
Fawn, in glamorous multi-coloured shimmering dress, gave a heartfelt and passionate account of the past ten years, in part disbelief that her ambitious dream had finally come true but, indeed, it had. Both audience and host celebrated the achievement as one, and Fawn graciously handed over the microphone to Rachel. Rachel herself had been working in tandem with Fawn for three years, and announced how good it was to gain regular employment at last! Together, they have come up with a jam-packed diary of entertainment spanning the next year and beyond. Musicals, Drama, Comedy, Cabaret, Sunday Service, Jazz, Podcasts, Special Events, and much more – quite a programme.
The crowd of old and new supporters cheered their joint achievements, the band played on, and we all continued the celebration as if it were a family reunion cum newborn christening. Which, in a way, it was. This may seem a rather partisan view of the launch, but the building itself did seem to have an atmospheric magnetism about it, a feeling of ease and, dare I say it, love, that brought people together in harmony. So, whatever the future may bring, I do urge everyone to attend just one of the plethora of events over the coming months, and judge for yourselves.
In the meantime, visit their site. See what might tickle your fancy. Failing all else, there is good food and drink on offer, and you might even see some memorabilia from the past too. On the night of the launch there was the old Boulevard door that we all used to go through back in the day. Thanks to Soho Estates and the Boulevard family, old and new, the doors are open again.
The Boulevard Theatre opens with Ghost Quartet from 24 October. For more information, please visit their website: https://boulevardtheatre.co.uk