Visits to the Coronet Theatre, until last week known as The Print Room at the Coronet, make me miss the days when I lived in Notting Hill (or rather, near enough, Ladbroke Grove). Last week, I went to attend the venue’s relaunch and season announcement under its new-old name; last night, I returned to chair a post-show Q&A at the world premiere of Alix Sobler’s The Glass Piano, specially programmed to launch this fresh chapter in the building’s history.
After years of gradual restoration since the Print Room moved into the Notting Hill Gate address in 2014, artistic director Anda Winters has now restored the building’s original name as well: it started life as the Coronet Theatre in 1898, presenting a range of performances including from luminaries such as Ellen Terry and Sarah Bernhardt. It was only in 1923 that it became the Coronet Cinema, for which it became much-loved locally, despite falling into disrepair over the decades.
The Glass Piano is the first production in a new season which includes a varied mix of theatre as well as dance, film, visual art and installations. Like the building, the true story that inspired Alix Sobler‘s new play hails from the 19th century, from the Bavarian court of Ludwig I, where the king’s eccentric daughter Princess Alexandra is suffering a peculiar delusion: she believes that, as a child, she swallowed a glass piano that could shatter at any moment.
After last night’s performance, I spoke to director Max Key and the company – Grace Molony as Princess Alexandra, Timothy Walker as Ludwig, Laurence Ubong Williams as her suitor Louis Lucien Bonaparte and Suzan Sylvester as the fictitious Galstina, as well as onstage pianist Elizabeth Rossiter – about the play and the theatre’s history, the original music supplied by Sergei Prokofiev’s composer grandson Gabriel Prokofiev, manoeuvring with a grand piano in tow, isolation and loneliness, and the importance of making and breaking rules in a complicated world.
Event photography by Peter Jones.