In 1988 Mervin Stokes, the Gaiety's Manager at the time, met with Dr. David Wilmore a fellow Matcham enthusiast, spirited by the potential of the Gaiety and the wisdom of Victor Glasstone, the pair hatched plans for a restoration. They co-ordinated this with the Friends of The Gaiety and Department of Tourism - the theatre’s owner.

The restoration of the Gaiety was launched on the 16th of July 1990 with a Service of Thanksgiving in St. Thomas's church led by Reverend Alec Smith the theatre chaplain. The aim of the project was to raise money to restore the theatre faithfully and correctly to its original splendour of 1900 and to be completed for its centenary celebrations, ten years later, in July 2000.

One of the jewels in the Gaiety’s crown is the Corsican Trap. The name comes from the play the 'Corsican Brothers' where as part of the plot, a dead man has to appear as a ghost. To achieve this a specialised trap was devised that would make the actor (or ghost!) appear through the stage, glide across it while also rising at the same time.

Our trusting actor would stand on a small platform (located under the stage) at the base of a set of rising rails, or track.

The small platform would travel up the track operated manually on a drum & shaft and winch system, while at the same time a specially designed moving floor, called a Scruto, would travel in the same direction and at the same speed, thus allowing the actor to appear through a specifically located hole in the Scruto giving the gradual rising appearance of our dead hero!

There was evidence that a trap may have been temporarily installed at the Gaiety, so efforts were made to re-create and install the unit. As a project the sub-stage restoration has been a slow patient undertaking with each important element being meticulously researched and only constructed and installed when full knowledge was gained. The re-instated Corsican Trap was re-created and constructed by a local master carpenter in 1995, since then it has been added to and was finally commissioned in the Spring of 2000 in preparation for its inclusion in the play the 'Corsican Brothers' which was an integral part of the Gaiety's Centenary celebration during the Summer of 2000.

The trap lived up to expectation and wowed audiences for the duration of the shows run. It remains the only known existing Corsican Trap or Ghost Glide in the British Isles, possibly the world.

The Gaiety has been very fortunate to be so well supported by the Department of Education, Sport & Culture and local, national and international businesses who sponsor us by way of donation or single projects. Each year, since 1990, several projects were decided upon and planned (depending on funds). The theatre would go dark every January to February for the planned restoration works to be carried out. Sometimes if the projects did not affect the running of the shows the works could commence at alternative times of the year.

The next major project is a full restoration of the Dress Circle Bar. Other plans also include possible frescoes for the ceiling corners, lighting, backing for the bar, re-wallpapering and re-carpeting. It’s so important for us to maintain the splendour that is the Gaiety Theatre, bearing in mind that we are very much a live and active theatre with highly modernised technical equipment complementing the old with the new.

Of all the remaining Matcham theatres, the Gaiety is the only one to be restored to its original state. A previous Director of the Theatres Trust of Great Britain has written “The Gaiety is certainly not the biggest or grandest, the oldest or the smallest theatre, but even if it had not been so lovingly restored it would still be one of the finest examples of our greatest and most prolific theatre architect.



1900-Theatre opened on 16th July by Frank Matcham. Douglas Choral Union sing National Anthem 


1913-Villa Marina Opened


1920- Frank Matcham dies at 66

1920-'Chu Chin Chow' plays at Gaiety

1921-Bench seating & barriers extracted

1929-Gaiety goes on to National Grid


1930-Fire causes damage in wooden projection box, new concrete box built with

new equipment installed

1938-Stage extended for Ice Show Season


1942-Services Players founded at the Gaiety by Jon Pertwee


1956-59-Gaiety used mainly as a cinema

1950-Manx Operatic Society formed


1966-Summer Season postponed due to National Seamans strike

1968-Theatre at worst state of dereliction in its history. Plans for demolition.     


1971-Theatre purchased by Isle of Man Government for £41,000

1979-Early refurbishments carried out by Victor Glasstone

1979 Friends of the Gaiety formed


1985-Stage Lighting goes from manual to computer for first time.

1981-Royal wedding shown live in theatre


1990-Restoration Project launched

Hemsley Act Drop restored.

Investigation of Ceiling lay light and reconstruction from fragments of a single glazed panel.


Stained glass in Rose light restored to original design.

Sun Burner restored to original appearance.

Stalls re-seated and wheelchair positions provided.

Proscenium paintings restored.

Tromp l’oeil in Orchestra pit and Dress Circle restored.


Ceiling panels and six other frescos restored.

Original art work of Frank Matcham cartoon for 'Spy' magazine purchased and conserved.


Facade restoration completed.

Iron entrance canopy fully restored together with stained glass panels over entrance doors.

Central heating renewed.

Matcham suite decorated and furnished.

Entrance foyer and Grand Staircase re-decorated with wallpaper reproduced from original samples.

Double purchase counterweight system installed.


Lanterns reinstated to entrance canopy.

Carpet reinstated to original design in foyer.

Wallpaper reinstated to original design in dress circle.

Replacement stage machinery acquired and installed from theatres of similar age and construction.


Grand staircase frescos reinstated.

New lighting system installed.


Wallpaper reinstated to original design in stalls and upper circle.

All exit corridors stripped and redecorated.


New sound system installed.

Stage re-boarded.

Auditorium barrier reinstated.

Victorian Coffee Promenade reinstated.


Entrance corridors redecorated. More ceiling frescos discovered.

Corsican trap re-constructed and installed.


Replacement of Gallery ceiling with fibrous plaster work

Box corridors ceiling design repainted


Final installation and commissioning of all stage traps, including the CORSICAN TRAP.

Replacement of house curtains with original swag flying green mohair tabs, also replacement of all box and entrance curtains.

Re-seating of Gallery area.

Flambeau or gas torch on roof reinstated

Centenary celebrated on July 16th 2000