The Georgian melodrama Black Eyed Susan will reopen the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds – Britain’s only fully operational Regency theatre – that has for the past two years been undergoing a £5.1million facelift.

The swashbuckling nautical adventure by Douglas Jerrold is part of artistic director Colin Blumenau’s “Restoring the Repertoire” programme, which will focus on Georgian plays from the period when the Theatre Royal was built in 1819, many of which have not been performed since the 19th century.

“When we started the restoration work, we did so with a passion for recapturing a valuable piece of lost history,” Blumenau said. “By restoring the theatre, we have not only created something which is historically fascinating but we have also created a space which makes it one of a kind among theatres in this country.”

When the theatre’s redecorated foyer is opened to the public on 11 September 2007, visitors will enjoy a new bar and restaurant, modern toilets and open-air patio. A redesigned logo (pictured) will adorn company letterheads and a display of historical artefacts discovered during the restoration will be displayed in the foyer, including a fragment of a 19th-century fan, a brick dated 1818, a cast iron lamp fitting from 1906 and paper bags used for sweets.

Robyn Llewellyn of Heritage Lottery, which contributed funds to the restoration, said the project benefited both art and heritage. “The extensive restoration will secure the future of the building for decades to come and will give visitors a chance to experience theatre exactly as would have been enjoyed by Georgian audiences when it was first built.”

Restoration of the theatre designed by William Wilkins (also responsible for the National Gallery) has been achieved through consultation with period architects Levitt Bernstein and the National Trust with funds from the Arts Council England, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and a public fundraising campaign.

The autumn season will also feature new pantomime Cinderella and the Glass Slipper (staged using Georgian technology) and visiting productions including a Goethe Theater Bad Lauchstädt Germany’s offering of Henry Purcell and John Dryden’s King Arthur, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey care of Salisbury Playhouse, Hull Truck’s revival of John Godber’s Bouncers, Lisa’s Sex Strike from Northern Broadsides, and Ballet Ireland’s performance of The Nutcracker. Rehearsed readings of Georgian plays will be ongoing.

- by Malcolm Rock