Lisa Barnard’s photographs are empty stages awaiting actors to enter through the myriad doors, emerge from behind spectral blue curtains, or even to appear hologram-like through a blank screen or a gaping rent in a wall. The theatre, located at 32 Smith Square, Westminster, is presently between productions. The final curtain for the last show came down in July 2004, though its glory days ended seven years earlier on 1 May 1997. Some would say the true date of its demise was 28 November 1990, when its leading lady, one Margaret Hilda Thatcher, announced she would no longer take the stage.
By now it may be evident that this now-empty building was once the Conservative Party headquarters. A famously squalid building on the inside – a state encouraged by the party’s then treasurer Lord McAlpine to attract benevolent benefactors – it was the setting for 50 years of Tory election victories, as well as the site where party faithful learnt of the memorable loss of Michael Portillo’s Enfield seat to Labour’s Stephen Twigg that fateful May night….