Tale of a hidden room

Few people know about the big room with a well at its centre,which lies beneath the stage at Dhobitalao’s Edward Theatre

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Mumbai | Published: January 1, 2014 12:53 am

The big screen once used for showing films now stands lifeless. The expanse of the wooden stage lies before it,with workers occasionally walking around to clean the place. Very few,however,are aware that underneath this platform stands a big room with a narrow well at its centre.

Before it was converted into a talkie in 1926,Dhobitalao’s Edward Theatre used to be a space for staging plays. Although Fred Poonawala,the managing partner of the theatre,says the place dates back to mid-1800s. The exact date of its construction is not known,he adds. It has since retained its original plan and structure,including the orchestra pit,balconies,the two green rooms at the back as well as the room below the stage.

Edward Theatre’s legacy is well known but few are aware of the room atop which the film screen now sits. “My guess is the room was used as a place where the performers gathered before and after the performance or during the break time,” he says,adding that it served the purpose of performers to enter and exit the stage. There is also a contraption,although not currently in operation,which perhaps allowed a performer to rise up to the stage from below. Currently,the room is used by the theatre’s staff as a space where they can take a breather.

The well,Poonawala adds,must have been used by performers for freshening up. The need for it perhaps arose from the fact that the entertainment space needs to be self-sufficient. “But it was also used as a water catchment by residents of the Dhobitalao area,” adds Poonawala who is attempting to revive Edward Theatre’s legacy as a space for performing arts.

dipti.nagpaul@expressindia.com

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