Darlington Civic Theatre first opened its doors on Monday 2 September 1907 as the New Hippodrome & Palace of Varieties under the leadership of Managing Director Signor Rino Pepi, an internationally renowned ‘protean’ or quick change artist. Signor Pepi soon established the theatre as a premiere music hall, attracting internationally acclaimed artists such as the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Over the years many more famous names have appeared at the theatre, including Tommy Cooper, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Rex Harrison, Dame Vera Lynn and Mickey Rooney, and more recently Darcey Bussell and Sarah Millican.
The Civic Theatre celebrated its centenary in 2007. To mark this very special birthday, an art installation, Cornucopian Vision (see image slider above), was commissioned, inspired by the magic, spirit and enjoyment of the theatre. The richness of form, colour, texture and light draw the onlooker’s eyes into the cornucopian vision, which changes with every step. Time too plays an important part in its ever-changing face. Whether seen in the more sombre subdued tones that natural daylight brings or the magic of the LEDS slowly changing colour from within. The six cages hold 420 hand blown ruby and clear glass balls and the copper horns have been formed and beaten by hand by Ged Masterson who also project managed the commission.
The reputation of Darlington Civic Theatre has grown over the years. It still attracts the biggest names in the theatre world and is a sought after venue for national touring. It remains rooted in the local community and supports amateur arts groups to present their work and to achieve the highest possible production values. It is a much-loved venue and the source of profound civic pride.