Theatre News

Cambridge Arts Theatre to have major capital redevelopment

A new lease of life for the Cambridge venue

A mock-up of the new Cambridge Arts Theatre, © Ian Chalk Architects
A mock-up of the new Cambridge Arts Theatre, © Ian Chalk Architects

Cambridge Arts Theatre today unveiled plans for the first phase of a major redevelopment project following a £16 million gift from David and Susie Sainsbury via the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

The funds will enable Cambridge Arts Theatre to have a total refurbishment of the current 666-seat auditorium,  designed by architect Ian Chalk, with upgraded audience facilities, improved technical services, sight lines, and acoustic performance. The project will facilitate new in-house work and ensure that the theatre can continue to host touring productions in Cambridge.

David Sainsbury said today: “The Cambridge Arts Theatre sits at the very heart of Cambridge’s rich cultural heritage, and the careers of many of our finest actors and directors of both stage and screen have started at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. We were first alerted to the need for wholesale refurbishment at the theatre by Ian McKellen during the tour of his one-man show. He made his own acting debut at Cambridge Arts Theatre in 1959, and we are delighted to make the donation today.”

At the same time, the venue has launched a fundraising campaign to add a 200-seat, fully equipped studio theatre on the roof of the existing building. This will build on the founding vision of John Maynard Keynes, who funded the construction of the Cambridge Arts Theatre in 1936. The plans for the renovation of the existing theatre are specifically designed to allow for the addition of this second space when the funds are available.

Cambridge Arts Theatre’s CEO, Dave Murphy commented: “Thanks to this extraordinarily generous gift from the Gatsby Foundation, the theatre is now at the dawn of a new era. I am very proud of the part I have played in formulating the plans for the new incarnation of the theatre and helping secure this transformational gift to enable the works to begin. On behalf of all of us at the venue, I want to thank the Gatsby Foundation for their generosity and belief in Cambridge Arts Theatre.”

Established in 1936 by the economist and founder member of the Arts Council, John Maynard Keynes, it has played host to a variety of cultural milestones, including Margot Fonteyn dancing her first Swan Lake to Harold Pinter’s premiere of The Birthday Party, and it has helped launch the careers of many across the arts industry including Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Tom Hiddleston, Trevor Nunn, Richard Ayoade, and Olivia Colman.