As part of a new series, Marcus Hyka brings to our attention one of Glasgow’s hidden theatre gems.
You’ve probably walked past it before. Perhaps on your way to Tesco or the subway. You most likely thought this was a church, which you’d be forgiven for thinking due to its iconic steeple and stained glass windows. Plus, it originally was a church. Whether you are familiar with it or not, it is impossible to ignore the bewitching building, which casts a welcoming shadow over Great Western Road’s silhouette. The building in question? The remarkable Websters Theatre.
Initially built in 1863 by John Honeyman, the theatre was formerly known as Lansdowne Parish Church. The church was praised as a marvel of Gothic Revival and Victorian architecture with a towering steeple and ornate stone carvings. Eventually, in 1913, Alf Webster began work on the impressive stained glass windows, which feature calming jewel tones and realistic transcriptions of human emotion. It wasn’t until 2014 when the building became disused, plans were made to transform it into a hub of entertainment, including renaming it after the talented Alf Webster. Today, Websters Theatre’s performance space is comprised of a cosy 188 seat black-box auditorium nestled amongst the neo-gothic architecture, allowing for intimacy and emotional connection to be felt between spectator and performer. The minimalist stage is bolstered by the grandiose stained glass and intricate stone-carved structures which grace the walls. The past and the present work in tandem.
Typically, Websters Theatre offers a variety of performances, ranging from musicals to gigs to dramas and the avant-garde. I truly recommend checking out the experimental productions which the theatre promises. The emphasis on community theatre at the forefront of this venue’s ethos is invaluable. It ensures a widened access for all individuals to tread the boards regardless of acting experience. Nevertheless, if the thought of theatre-going sounds too daunting during a pandemic, rest assured you can still experience the charming snugness of the venue in other ways. For anyone looking for a new meal/drink spot, be sure to try the venue’s bar and bistro, which display the similar architecture and comfortable ambience of the auditorium.
In the end, I think what captivates me most about this venue is the sheer amount of lived experiences packed behind its stone walls. Evidently, Websters Theatre retains the prior community spirit and kinship of its previous identity as a place of worship. The theatre is steeped in rich history and human stories, which helps formulate an exciting and intriguing performance space for theatrical tales to unfurl. It is impossible not to feel the authentic historical narratives of people and community echoing alongside the narratives onstage. In this sense, the theatre itself becomes another character in the show- the heart.
To check out what’s on at Webster’s Theatre in the coming months, click here.