Page last updated at 22:29 GMT, Sunday, 7 February 2010

Final Hackney Empire show signals nine-month closure

Hackney Empire
Charlie Chaplin and WC Fields have performed at the Hackney Empire

London's flagship variety theatre, the Hackney Empire, has staged its last show before it closes for at least nine months, following financial problems.

More than 150 youngsters aged between five and 18 took part in the Anna Fiorentini Theatre and Film School variety show on Sunday.

The theatre's chief executive, Claire Middleton, ordered the closure "for a period of reflection".

However, she said the venue would definitely reopen.

Hackney Council said the theatre was a much-loved icon that was at the heart of the borough's cultural life and it was working with the arts council to provide a package of support.

Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stan Laurel and Marie Lloyd are among those who have played live at the theatre which opened in 1901 as a music hall.

It became the first ATV studio and later a bingo hall before returning to live variety in the 1980s.

The Hackney Empire was reopened in 2004 after a three-year closure for a £17m refurbishment.

The theatre is funded in part by the Arts Council England, Hackney Council, commercial sponsors and private donors.

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