A PHOTOGRAPHIC exhibition charting the ups and downs of an Edwardian theatre across its 106-year history is to go on permanent display to the public.

Staff at Darlington Civic Theatre were on hand to cut the ribbon on the exhibition, which tells the story of the venue from its opening as The New Hippodrome and Palace of Varieties in 1907, through to the present day.

The exhibition gathers together a large part of the theatre’s archive and will be available to view for theatre-goers and people taking part in tours of the listed building.

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The theatre was founded by Signor Rino Pepi, an Italian quick-change artist and impersonator, whose love of the stage took him into a management career with a chain of establishments across the North-East.

The theatre was taken over by the Borough Council of Darlington in 1966 after years of financial instability. In recent years the venue has again faced closure due to council budget cuts but, after being saved again for the town, staff are now making plans for a major restoration.

Theatre director Lynda Winstanley said: “The story of the theatre is so fascinating, particularly that of Signor Pepi. Very few of his original theatres survive today so we think we are special really because we are one of theatre's great survivors.

“We are working to raise money for the restoration of the theatre to its original state as far as possible and this exhibition is a way for people to get involved with that and hear the theatre’s exceptional story.”