Backstage Heritage Collection – Talks – November 2015

The White Heat of Revolution – Dorian Kelly

24th November 2015
Savoy Theatre


The story to be told is of the bold decision by a charismatic theatrical entrepreneur in 1881 to use an untried electric lighting technology – the incandescent lamp – to make theatrical history.

The Savoy Theatre, in London’s West End, has a seating capacity of 1,158. Built by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte (1844 – 1901) on the site of the old Savoy Palace as a showcase for the works of Gilbert & Sullivan (later becoming known as the Savoy Operas as a result), it was designed by C. I. Phipps and decorated by Collinson & Locke.

Widely regarded as the most beautifully fitted theatre in Europe, it opened its doors on 10 October 1881, with a transfer of Opera Comique’s production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s opera Patience, and is famed for being the first public building in the world to be lit by Incandescent electric lights.

By 1889, the theatre and the opera productions were so successful D’Oyly Carte used the considerable profits generated to build the luxury Savoy Hotel next door.

This event on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 reviewed the original incandescent installation, its problems, its failure and its triumphs and how it changed the course of drama to inspire an entire new style of action, design, and playwriting.

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