Venues & Sets

BBC Television Theatre...


Built in 1903 as a music hall and designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham.


Charlie Chaplin was one of the first performers to appear there.


Purchased by the BBC in 1953 to use as a television studio-theatre.


Used for shows such as:


Crackerjack

Hancock’s Half Hour

The Generation Game

The Basil Brush Show

Juke Box Jury

Jim’ll Fix It


Exclusively used from 1985 for Wogan, which was broadcast 3 nights a week.


The BBC sold the venue in 1991, and it is currently operating as a music venue - the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire.


King’s Theatre...


Opened on Boxing Day 1902 with the pantomime Cinderella.


Had a capacity of 3000.


The building was located at 178-180 Hammersmith Road and was demolished in 1963.

The BBC Years 1955-1964

The original BBC period is predominately broadcast from the BBC Television Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush, though much of the second series is from the King’s Theatre in nearby Hammersmith.


The sets are reminiscent of a fashionable living room of the day, with minimal, sturdy looking furniture, floral decorations, standard lamps and pot plants.


Guests would appear from behind curtains, then leave the set after paying their tribute, to return en masse as the credits rolled.


TV monitors give way to large screens, used to relay messages from those guests unable to attend in person, and to display captions and graphics designed to help tell the story.


Occasionally the set would be specially dressed in a way which is appropriate to the subject - as with veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hibberd, who was surprised to find a recreation of the Savoy Hill studios.


The only credit for set design seen from this period appears on the very first show - when Eamonn Andrews was surprised by Ralph Edwards - and is given to:


Barry Learoyd: Prolific production designer who worked on many early BBC dramas, including a live production of The Time Machine in 1949.


He worked on many TV adaptations of Shakespeare plays throughout the 1950s, as well as the classic Sunday Night Theatre series and later the anthology show Out Of The Unknown.


Euston Road Studios...


The Euston Road Studios, located next to London's Euston Tower, were purpose built for Thames Television in 1969.


The building, known as Thames Television House, became the home of the company's current affairs, local news, schools and religious programming and housed most of the admin and sales personnel.


There were two main studios, the largest of which, Studio 5 - 59 x 30 feet wall to wall and an audience capacity of 100 - was used for This Is Your Life.


The studios closed at the end of 1992 when the Thames franchise ended. The building was obtained for redevelopment in 1994, and demolished in 1996.

The Thames Years 1969-1988

Thames Television uses the larger of it’s Euston Road studios for This Is Your Life - Studio 5.


However, the studio isn’t very large, and the brightly coloured, intimate, early sets often look cramped with the use of cloth covered round tables.


It isn’t unusual for guests to smoke and drink on the shows in the early 1970s.


The BBC curtains are replaced by the (sometimes sliding) doors which open on cue, usually to a fanfare, to reveal the surprise guest.


Unlike the BBC period, guests would now stay on the set after delivering their greeting.


Many early Thames shows are broadcast live so pick-ups often take place in the studio foyer or near-by on Euston Road.


The production team have offices in the Euston Road building.


Eamonn Andrews presents Thames Television’s London news magazine programme Today four nights a week from the studio complex between 1968-1977.


Names credited for set design at the Thames Television studios include:


Tony Borer

Nevil Dickin

Sylva Nadolny

Gordon Toms

Jim Nicholson

Alex Macintyre

Graham Guest

New London Theatre...


Situated on Drury Lane and built in 1972, this modern theatre has a flexible seating arrangement and a maximum capacity of over 900.

For just two series, the New London Theatre, with its large stage and auditorium, creates a greater sense of occasion.


Subjects are ushered in by Eamonn Andrews through the audience.


The use of the theatre is short lived due to the musical production Cats taking up residency in 1980.

Royalty Theatre...


Built in 1960 and located in the basement level of an office block.


Initially used as a cinema screening Cinerama films.


Now owned by the London School of Economics and renamed the Peacock Theatre.


The 1000 seat house is now used by the LSO for lectures during the day, and as a performance space at night - including occasional Sadler’s Wells productions.

Series 21 set   Series 22 set
 
Series 22/23:1981-3
     
Series 24 set   Series 26 set
Series 24/25:1983-5
 
     
Series 27 set   Series 28 set
 
     

The Royalty Theatre in Holborn becomes home to This Is Your Life for almost eight years.


A similar sized theatre to the New London, the Royalty is used exclusively for This Is Your Life.


The larger sets enable more seats to be used, which means more guests!


Series 27 and 28 also make use of Thames Television’s studios at Teddington. The sets in these series have two entrances from which guests can appear - the traditional doorway and a side entrance adjacent to the big screen.


Names credited for set design during this period at the Royalty Theatre include:


Lewis Logan

Peter Joyce

Jane Krall

Teddington Studios...


There have been studios on the banks of the River Thames at Teddington Lock, Middlesex since the 1910s.


The film studios which existed from that time were bought by Warners Brothers in 1931 to produce ‘quota quickies’.


Devastated by a bomb in 1944 the studios were re-opened by Danny Kaye in 1948.


ABC bought the studios in 1958 to use for television production.


Thames Television was created by a merger of Rediffusion and ABC and until 1992 used Teddington as the main production centre for such shows as:

The Tommy Cooper Show

Morecambe and Wise

Opportunity Knocks

George and Mildred

The Benny Hill Show

The Thames Years 1988-1994

Series 29 set   Series 30 set
 
     
     
Series 31 set   Series 32 set
 
     
     
Series 33 set   Series 34 set
 
     

Thames now predominantly use the studios at Teddington.


The sliding doors disappear for several series.


The subject’s photo is displayed on a big screen on which, as in the original BBC series, messages are relayed from guests unable to attend the recording.


Names credited for set design during this period include:


Jane Moorfoot

BBC Television Centre...


Officially opened in June 1960, the centre in White City, West London was the headquarters of BBC television until 2013.


The London Studios...


Studio complex owned by London Weekend Television since 1972, and situated on the South Bank.


Fountain Studios...


An independently owned studio complex in Wembley. Previously the home of Rediffusion and LWT.

The BBC Years 1994-2003

Although still produced by Thames Television - now an independant production company owned by Pearson Television - the show is now broadcast by the BBC.


Various studios are used over the final nine series of the show, including Teddington, BBC Television Centre, ITV’s London Studios on the Southbank and Fountain Studios in Wembley.


The sets are bigger than ever, as sofas replace individual chairs for guests.


The sliding doors return to become part of the design of the final two series.


Production designers at the BBC include:


Paul Sudlow

Martin Collins

Simon Jago