Morris unveils ambitious plans for Bristol Old VicDate: 13 May 2010
Bristol Old Vic artistic director Tom Morris has unveiled detailed plans for the redevelopment of the Theatre Royal complex. At a public meeting held earlier this week, (See News 20 April 2010 ), Morris presented the £19.3 million project, funded in part by a £6.1m Arts Council grant, which will se the historic venue and surrounding buildings transformed into a multip-purpose complex, with up to ten distinct performance spaces.
Highlights of the plan include; improving seating and sight-lines in the main auditorium, with the stage extended into the audience area and the central aisle removed from all levels of seating. This will increase the seating capacity to around 600. Backstage and office facilities will also be upgraded, and an area to the side of the existing stage adapted, to provide a second auditorium, with seating for up to 250. In a concept similar to that adopted at the Curve Theatre in Leicester, which has a shared central stage with an auditorium on either side, this allows the same stage to be used for productions that suit a smaller, more intimate venue .
Other areas of the building will also be redeveloped so that they can be used for performance and additional rehearsal space will be provided. The vision, says Morris, is to be able to respond to the need of the various artists who he hopes will want to use the venue, and to make use of as much space as possible. With a flexible approach, they will be capable of hosting three or four shows on any given night, bringing the whole complex alive.
The venue first opened in 1766, and extensive research has been undertaken by historian Jane Root into how the space has been used over the years. This research has been fed into the deign process for the new space, and Morris and executive director Emma Stenning have been conducting a series of experiments to discover what configurations best suit the modern audience. The key is flexibility, allowing the configuration to be altered to suit on a ‘production by production basis’
There is still a long way to go in raising the funds to complete this ambitious project, but with the support of the Arts Council England, together with £1 million from Bristol City Council and £3.4 million from trusts, foundations and private donations, there is the confidence and momentum needed to succeed, with a target completion of early 2012.