Millionairess gives West End a new lease of life
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Friday 03 October 1997
It is too glib to say that Mrs Holmes a Court, the executive chairman of Stoll Moss Theatres, has brought a woman's eye to theatre. But, without question the changes she has instigated have all been aimed at making theatregoing a more comfortable experience.
"Some of these buildings have been extremely badly neglected for decades," she said. "I think theatre-goers have been getting a rough deal. I noticed immediately there was a problem with women's lavatories. Here at the Lyric we had a gents' toilet which had 16 positions and a ladies' toilet with two. And it doesn't compute. We've swapped that round. Now the ladies have 10 cubicles and the gents have two. Before, ladies had to make a decision at the interval whether to have a drink or spend the whole time queuing. "The Lyric, the oldest theatre on Shaftresbury Avenue, had takeaway Indian restaurant flock wallpaper, which is very nice in an Indian restaurant, but not in an 1888 theatre. And people are four inches taller now than they were in 1888. I noticed the lack of leg room in West End theatre the moment I came here. We've put in continental seating with much better leg room."
The widow of the Australian businessman Robert Holmes a Court, who died of a heart attack in 1990, Mrs Holmes a Court is relishing playing a far more active role in the Stoll Moss empire than her late husband.
The empire includes flagships like the London Palladium and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, as well as the bulk of Shaftesbury Avenue, and a massive cattle business back in Australia.
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