Theatre Royal All Set For ReopeningDate: 8 September 2011
The "crowning glory of Grey Street", Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, reopens to the public this Monday after one of the biggest and most meticulous theatre restorations in recorded history.
Costing £4.9 million and taking six months and 500 workmen to complete, (in preparation for the Theatre’s 175th birthday in 2012), the project has reconstructed the Grade I listed Theatre’s Victorian auditorium in exquisite detail. Everything from carpets to brasswork, light fittings to wallpaper, lost tilework to ornate gold-leaf plasterwork has been meticulously recreated from original 1901 designs, photographs and catalogues by specialist craftsmen from across Europe . Now work is complete, the team are confident that "the greatest building on Britain’s greatest street", will offer the best, and most authentic, theatre experience in the UK.
Including both renovation of the interior and exterior, the restoration work has recaptured the grand style of Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham’s 1901 design while introducing twenty first century standards of comfort and improving energy and carbon efficiency. Seats are now much more comfortable, with more leg room and a better view of the stage, plus there are now two new luxury boxes in the Grand Circle , and a superb Amphitheatre in the Gallery.
David Wilmore, a theatre consultant and Matcham expert who has advised the project said: “This is the biggest and most meticulous theatre restoration I have ever worked on - no other I’m aware of has been as meticulously researched and recreated. Because we know far more about Frank Matcham than ever before, and understand how great a genius of theatre design and the audience experience he was, we have been able to achieve a bespoke reconstruction, and the level of detail is extreme.
“Nothing is ‘off-the-shelf’ here, everything has been bespoke-made using traditional techniques, and for that reason the project signifies a fundamental shift in how we approach conservation in the 21st century.”
Lighting, air conditioning and technical facilities have all been upgraded; foyers, toilets and stairways have been renovated, and there is an all-new restaurant for Theatre-goers. Access for wheelchair users has also been considerably improved. In addition, repairs and lighting enhancements have been made to the famous Grey Street Portico, which had been damaged by the elements and recent severe winters.
Philip Bernays, chief executive of Newcastle Theatre Royal, said: “This project has been a labour of love for everyone involved, and no expense spared on the creation of authentic decorative touches. We haven’t skimped in any way – we’ve sought out the best craftsmen from across Britain and Europe , and in some cases the original Victorian manufacturers are still going!
“In total, 37,000 pieces of gold leaf have been used to coat 16% of the auditorium – it virtually glows! The result is simply breathtaking - we know that our audiences will be blown away by the sheer beauty of it. If Matcham were alive today, I think he would be very impressed, and we couldn’t think of a better gift for the ‘grand old lady of Grey Street ’ ahead of her 175th birthday next year.”
The core project team has comprised Sansome Hall architects, Charcoalblue theatre consultants, Newcastle-based SURGO Construction, conservation experts Theatresearch, building engineers Max Fordham and cost consultants FK Howard. As the Theatre is an independent charitable trust, the project has largely been funded by a £1.75 heritage contribution on every ticket sold since 2008. The rest of the funding has come from private and trust donations, as well as a £300,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Theatre will reopen to the public on Monday with Alan Bennett’s spectacular five-star reviewed period drama The Madness of George III (12 to 17 Sep). It will be the first show to be performed in the Theatre for over six months.
For more information visit the Theatre Royal Website
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