Audiences at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, will travel back in time when the Theatre completes a restoration programme next year. The auditorium will be “dark” from March to September 2011, while the other facilities, such as the learning space, box office and cafes remain open.

Costing not far short of five million pounds, the revamp will be finished in time to celebrate the Theatres 175 birthday on February 20th 2012.

The Frank Matcham designed Theatre opened in 1901, replacing the previous theatre on the site, which had been destroyed by fire in 1899. Over the years the Theatre has lost many of its original features but that is all about to change as it returns to its origins. Luckily historians have documented Matchams work and when he was designing around 150 theatres, he catalogued the original items used, which will allow the refurbishment to be authentic.

While still having to comply with today’s regulations, demands of touring productions and audiences, the auditorium will return to the splendour of how it looked in 1901. This is not quick make over and no details are being overlooked as the Victorian splendour is recaptured. We are promised the recreation of the original fittings used in the orchestra pit, light fittings and bulbs that reproduce the effects gas-light burners as well as tile work, fabrics and new carpets throughout. Also period style seating will replace the cinema seats, currently used in the venue. Susan Hampshire, who was starring at the venue in Pride and Prejudice, was on hand with members of the Company to try the seats and inspect the plans at the launch.

Seats will return to the first three rows in the gallery, currently used to house lighting and cables and gantries currently on view to hold lights will be incorporated in to the design of the building and be hidden from the audiences view.

Complementing the refurbishment will be state of the art ventilation and air-conditioning making the venue suitably for audiences and productions for many years to come.